HPV Home > Causes of HPV

The primary causes of HPV are the human papillomaviruses, of which there are at least 100 different types. In many cases, these viruses are harmless, but some can cause precancerous growths or even cancer. About 30 are spread through sexual contact. Based on the type of virus that is transmitted and how it is transmitted, HPV causes many different conditions. Common ones include warts, precancerous lesions, and cervical cancer.

What Are the Causes of HPV? -- An Overview

HPV stands for human papillomavirus. These viruses are the direct causes of HPV and infect the skin or mucous membranes (mucous membranes are the moist, inner lining of some organs and body cavities, such as the nose, mouth, lungs, and stomach).
There are actually over 100 different types of HPV. Most are harmless; however, several types can cause precancerous growths or even cancer. About 30 types of HPV are spread through sexual contact, making it one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

What Diseases Can HPV Cause?

When someone is infected with HPV, the condition that results will depend a lot on which type of HPV virus is transmitted and the location of transmission. Some diseases that HPV can cause include:
  • Warts, including common warts (verrucae vulgaris), plantar warts (verrucae plantaris), and flat warts (verrucae plana)
  • Genital warts (known medically as condylomata acuminata or venereal warts)
  • Precancerous lesions, including on the cervix (high-grade dysplasia and low-grade dysplasia)
  • Cervical cancer
  • Other precancerous lesions or cancer, including on the penis, anus, vagina, and vulva
  • Laryngeal papillomas, which are noncancerous tumors on the larynx (voice box), vocal cords, or the air passages leading from the nose into the lungs (respiratory tract).
In some cases, an infection with HPV causes no signs or symptoms.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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