Human papilloma viruses (HPV) are a group of more than 200 related viruses. More than 40 HPV types can easily spread through direct sexual contact, from the skin, mucous membranes and secretions of infected people to their partners. These can spread by vaginal, anal and oral sex. HPV can be regarded as the leading cause of cervical cancer in women and genital warts in men. It can also be associated with silent signs and symptoms and caused due to multiple sexual partners. HPV causes approximately 5% of all cancers worldwide.
Types of HPV:
Sexually transmitted HPV type falls into 2 categories:-
- Low Risk HPV – These viruses do not cause cancer and only cause wart formation.
- High Risk HPV – These viruses can cause cancers. More than a dozen cancer causing HPV types have been identified. Out of the disease causing viruses type 16 and 18 are responsible for most of the cancers.
Most of the high risk HPV infections are asymptomatic and go away within 1 to 2 years and do not cause cancer. Only those infections which become chronic increase the chances of developing cancers.
Types of Cancers caused by HPV
- Cervical Cancer: HPVV is the most common and major cause of cervical cancer. It is caused by HPV type 16 and 18 and is responsible for more than 70% of all cases caused by the HPV.
- Anal Cancers: Approximately 90 to 95 % of anal cancers are caused by human papilloma viruses and most of them are caused by type 16.
- Oropharyngeal Cancers: Cancers of the soft palate, base of tongue and tonsils are caused by HPV, specially type 16.These are usually of better prognosis type and respond better to the treatment.
- Vaginal Cancers, Vulval Cancers and Penile Cancers – These are also known to be caused by human papilloma viruses. Most of them are caused by type 16.
Prevention from Cancers and HPV:
- Prevention is by HPV vaccination before onset of sexual activity. Age group for which vaccines are prescribed start at 10 yrs of age.
- FDA has approved three vaccines to present HPV infections, gardasil, gardasil 9 and cervarix.
- Use of safe sexual practices in form of use of condoms for protected sex and limiting the number of sexual partners is recommended.