HPV Home > HPV and Cervical Cancer

There appears to be a definite link between HPV and cervical cancer. In fact, human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are now recognized as the major cause of cervical cancer. However, it's the "high-risk" viruses that are more likely to lead to the disease. Risk factors for HPV and cervical cancer include having many sexual partners, smoking, not getting regular Pap tests, and having a weakened immune system.

Is HPV Linked to Cervical Cancer?

HPV (human papillomavirus) is now recognized as the major cause of cervical cancer. Studies also suggest that HPVs may play a role in cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, and some cancers of the oropharynx (the middle part of the throat that includes the soft palate, the base of the tongue, and the tonsils). Data from several studies also suggest that infection with HPV is a risk factor for penile cancer (cancer of the penis).
 

HPV Types and Cancer Risk

Some types of HPVs are referred to as "low-risk" viruses because they rarely turn into cancer. HPVs that are more likely to lead to the development of cancer are referred to as "high-risk" viruses. Both high-risk and low-risk HPVs can cause the growth of abnormal cells, but generally only the high-risk HPVs lead to cancer. Sexually transmitted high-risk HPVs include the following types:
 
  • 16
  • 18
  • 31
  • 33
  • 35
  • 39
  • 45
  • 51
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  • 59
  • 68
  • 69.
 
A few others may also be included in this list. These high-risk HPVs cause growths that are usually flat and nearly invisible. These are different from the warts caused by types HPV-6 and HPV-11.
 
It is important to note, however, that the majority of high-risk HPV infections often go away on their own and do not cause cancer.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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