Human papillomavirus (HPV)

The human papillomavirus (HPV) causes warts, including genital warts, and may cause cervical cancer and changes in the cervix that can lead to cancer. HPV is spread by direct contact.

There are more than 100 known types of HPV.

  • Some HPV types cause genital warts. In women, certain high-risk types of HPV increase the risk of cervical cancer. Women may have an HPV infection and not have any symptoms. Sometimes the only sign that a woman is infected with HPV is an abnormal Pap test result.
  • Other types of HPV cause common, plantar, filiform or flat warts, and some genital warts. These types of warts are not cancerous.

There is no known cure for HPV. Most warts and HPV infections go away without treatment within 2 years; however, medicines and treatments are available to help warts disappear more quickly. HPV remains in the body with or without treatment, so warts or HPV infections of the cervix may come back.

The HPV shot can help prevent HPV infection. It can be given to males and females 9 to 26 years old.

Last Updated: July 2, 2008

Author: Sandy Jocoy, RN

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, MPH - Infectious Disease

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