Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Just how bad is HPV?

HPV, or Human Papilloma Virus, has been making media headlines for the last few years with the advent of the Gardisil vaccine against it. But just how common is HPV? And how bad is it really?

Now, there are more than 40 strains of HPV and some are more "high risk" than others. HPV strains 16,18,52, and 59  are considered to be linked with abnormal PAP smears and cervical cancers. These strains of HPV are associated with 99% of all cervical cancer cases.

First things first, HPV is a sexually transmitted infection. Despite the vagueness of the television commercials, you get HPV from having sex, either vaginal, anal, or oral. You can even get it by having your nether parts touch an infected nether part.

Most people don't know they have HPV, since in most cases (90%) there are no signs or symptoms. Some people with HPV get genital warts or very rarely throat warts. Since HPV is known to cause abnormal pap smears and is a precursor to cervical cancer (and also cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx) many people associate HPV with cancer.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), about 20 MILLION people are infected with HPV with about 6 million new cases each year. Apparently 50% of sexually active folk will get HPV at some point in their lifetimes. Yup, it is that common. But not all of these HPV infections are the high risk strains. In fact, only 15% of infections were the high risk type, although 24% of women had two different types of HPV detected and 15% had three subtypes.

There is no treatment for HPV itself, and in most cases, your body's immune system will clear up an HPV infection (or at least make it dormant or undetectable) in about two years. So the best thing to do is to prevent it in the first place. If you are between the ages of 11 and 26, go on and get either Cervarix or Gardasil, vaccines that protect against the types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers.Gardasil works for boys and men who are 9 through 26 years old. If you are older, make sure to get regular pap smears which can detect HPV or an HPV DNA test. If you are having sex, make sure you are using condoms from start to finish. Since condoms still only cover a portion of the infected areas they don't fully protect against HPV, so choose your partners wisely.


  1. Your data which points to HPV 16, 18, 52 and 59 as causative of 99% of cervical cancer is skewed. HPV 16 and 18 cause 70% of cervical cancers. 16, 18, 31 and 45 cause 80%. 52 causes between 2 and 4%.

  2. My friend insists that she has gotten annual paps every year and that her last came back as showing one of the "bad strains.".. She says that she contracted it from a man that she was just with five months ago. What are the facts. Is it possible to have paps come back, "normal" and still have contracted it from partners in the past? She is insistent that she has not been sexually active for three years but I think that is more than likely an untrue statement. She may have not had sex without a condom but every source advises that even with a condom, it is very possible to have HPV. I understand that it is matter of pointing a finger and the most important thing now is to get more regular check ups but I am just trying to learn the facts.

  3. A couple things -
    1)yes you can still get HPV from using condoms. That is what makes it so tricky.
    2) Having a Pap smear does mean that you are tested for HPV. You CAN be tested for HPV with a pap smear but they are two separate tests. Because it is now suggested that you get tested every three years, this is entirely possible.
    3) HPV can clear up on its own. It can also take quite some time to create cell abnormalities, even years.
    If you are younger than 26, you should look into the HPV vaccine. Otherwise, condoms and regular checkups are the way to go. HPV is particularly insidious, so it is very easy to miss an active infection.

  4. Yes, HPV is so bad diseases which is very dangerous and it abash for us. I am very concern about this we should take care of our health.


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