HPV is the name given to a group of germs (viruses) that can affect the skin and mucous membranes. Mucous membranes are wet membranes that line different body parts, including the mouth, throat, and genital area.
There are more than one hundred types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and about 40 of these can affect the genital area. Some of these types can cause warts on the skin, but many varieties do not cause any problems or damage.
Both men and women can have the Human Papilloma Virus. There are certain risk factors, which include:
- Multiple sexual partners
- The early age of having the first sexual relationship
Most women will have an HPV infection at some point, usually without even knowing it. Some types of Human Papillomavirus are known that may increase the risk of developing cancer. These are known to cause cancer (oncogenic) or high-risk subtypes. About 9 out of 10 HPV infections are completely relieved over two years, thanks to the body’s immune system, self-limiting disease in most people.
What is the link between human papillomavirus infection and cervical cancer?
Most types of HPV do not cause any symptoms or illness. However, the two types, HPV 16 and HPV 18, are involved in developing cervical cancer cases (the cervix). HPV infection with types 16 and 18 can cause cells in the cervix to change little by little. This can lead to precancerous cells or even cancer.
Precancerous cells are known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Having this type of HPV infection does not mean that you will develop cervical cancer. However, forming this type of cancer is significantly increased with these infections.
Human papillomavirus and genital warts
There are two types of HPV (types 6 and 11) that cause approximately 9 out of 10 genital warts. These types of HPV do not cause cervical cancer.
Treatment for the Human Papilloma Virus
There is no treatment for HPV itself. But there are vaccines against this virus:
Cervarix and Gardasil
Cervarix is known as a bivalent vaccine, which means that it protects against the two strains of HPV; it protects against HPV16 and HPV18 by decreasing the number of cervical cancer cases over time.
Gardasil. It is a tetravalent vaccine; it protects against four strains of HPV, HPV16, HPV18, HPV6 and HPV11. This means that it also protects against genital warts and cervical cancer.