A snapshot of HPV is not a great picture. It has been said that nearly half of all sexually active people will contract some form of HPV within their lifetime. It has been estimated that at least 80% of sexually active women and men will be exposed to HPV in their lifetime. Some say the numbers are closer to 100%. HPV is responsible not only for cervical cancer but also for vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal and oropharyngeal cancers.
What is HPV? HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus. They are a group of non-enveloped DNA viruses that specifically infect human epithelial cells.
There are about 100 types of HPV that affect different parts of the body.
The majority of these sub-types cause no symptoms and do not cause cervical cancer. They are categorized to be of the LOW-RISK strains. Low-risk HPV subtypes include types 6 and 11 that cause 90 percent of genital warts.
HIGH-RISK HPV strains, on the other hand, are more often associated with precancerous tissue changes of the cervix that may lead to cervical cancer, if left untreated over many years. More than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases can be attributed to two types of the virus, HPV-16, and HPV-18.