Lisa Savage, MD


Article: Human Papillomavirus Infection (HPV)

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Infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) is very common in both women and men. More than 100 types of this virus have been identified. Some types of this virus are spread from person to person through sexual contact. A few types have been linked to cancer.

What Is HPV?

Human papillomavirus is a very common infection that can be passed from person to person. Some types of HPV are spread through sexual contact. Studies suggest that at least three out of every four people who have sex will get a genital HPV infection at some time during their lives. Sexually transmitted HPV can spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex.

There often are no signs of genital HPV. However, a few types of HPV cause warts. Warts that grow in the genital area are called condyloma acuminata. Genital warts also can grow around the anus, on the vulva or on the cervix. Warts can be treated with medication applied to the area or surgery to remove them.

HPV and Cancer Risk

Some types of HPV cause cancer of the cervix. HPV also may be linked to cancer of the anus, vulva, vagina and penis. Genital warts usually are not linked with cancer.

Although certain types of HPV can cause cancer of the cervix, very few women with HPV develop this type of cancer.


There is no cure for HPV — it is best to take steps to prevent it. Young women can prevent certain types of HPV infection by being vaccinated. You can decrease your risk of infection by avoiding contact with the virus.

To lower your chance of infection:

  • * Limit your number of sexual partners.
  • * Use condoms Condoms cannot fully protect you against HPV infection.

HPV can be passed from person to person by touching infected areas not covered by a condom.


Some types of HPV infection spread from person to person through sexual contact. To lower your risk of infection, limit your number of sexual partners and use condoms.

This excerpt from ACOG's Patient Education Pamphlet is provided for your information. It is not medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for visiting your doctor. If you need medical care, have any questions, or wish to receive the full text of this Patient Education Pamphlet, please contact your obstetrician-gynecologist.

To ensure the information is current and accurate, ACOG titles are reviewed every 18 months.

Copyright © Dr. Lisa Savage, MD. All rights reserved.