Human Papillomavirus (HPV): Infection or Cancer?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) has recently been reported with increased number of infections. During the last 30 years of my practice, I have seen and treated many patients with genital warts; recently I have been seeing more patients, especially youngsters, who come in for treatment of genital warts caused by human papillomavirus (HPV). While the infection with HPV mainly causes warts in the anogenital region, more serious infections with “dangerous” strains of HPV may lead to cancer.
Human papillomavirus mainly infects the cells of the skin and mucous membranes causing visible genital warts. HPV infections are the most commonly sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that affect nearly all men and women who are sexually active or who have had sex at some point in their lives. Transmitted from one partner to another, HPV may infect the skin and mucous membranes of the anal, genital, oral, or pharyngeal (throat) region. While most of the infection cases go undetected and resolve by themselves (70% in first year and 90% in second year), persistent forms -5% to 10%- may stay and cause more serious health conditions such as cervical, oral, penile, or throat cancer.
As mentioned before, nearly all sexually active men and women have been exposed to human HPV at some point during life and the number of infected individuals and newly diagnosed infections continue to rise: close to 80 million Americans are currently infected with human papillomavirus and 14 million get newly infected each year. As a urologist facing urogenital conditions for more than 30 years, I would like to share some knowledge about the nature of HPV infections, preventative methods, diagnostic modalities, and treatment options.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Most commonly transmitted STI
- Transmitted during vaginal, oral, or anal sex, but also through skin contact (shaking hands!)
- May cause obvious genital warts, oral warts, or warts on other exposed areas
- Most infected people do not even know about being infected!
- 70-90% of cases resolve without being detected
- 5-10% may become persistent and cause cancer
I will talk about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment in the next post.