Human papilloma virus (HPV)
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is a double stranded DNA virus. HPV infection commonly causes skin or mucous membrane growths called warts. At least 13 of more than 100 known HPV subtypes can cause cancer of the cervix, anogenital cancers and cancers of the head and neck in both females and males. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally. According to CDC, each year in the United States, about 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed and about 4,000 women die of this cancer.
HPV is a highly transmissible virus and is mainly spread through sexual contact. HPV is transmitted by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. It can also spread through skin-to-skin contact. A person with HPV who does not have signs or symptoms can pass the infection. Anyone that’s sexually active can get HPV. Symptoms can be seen sometimes years after having sex with someone with the infection.
The two most common high-risk genotypes, HPV 16 and 18, cause approximately 70% of all cervical cancers. The low-risk genotypes, HPV 6 and 11, cause genital warts, a common benign condition of the external genitalia that causes problems.
Three HPV vaccines have been available to prevent the infection. These vaccines are prepared from virus-like particles (VLPs) produced by recombinant technology and do not contain any real virus particles:
- A bivalent vaccine consists of HPV types 16 and 18
- A tetravalent vaccine consists of HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18
- A nonvalent vaccine that provides protection against HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.
HPV vaccines are very safe. Vaccination against HPV is a cost-effective way to prevent cervical cancer and other cancers related to HPV. Depending on the person’s age currently 2 or 3 doses of the vaccine are recommended. Other ways to prevent from HPV infection is to use condoms every time you have sex and be in a mutually monogamous relationship.
Please talk with your doctor or healthcare provider about HPV vaccine and cervical cancer screening.
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