HPV and Cancer Overview
Cancer is a disease that causes uncontrolled cell growth in the body. Depending on the original site of growth, the name of the cancer is determined.
In the United States, human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In fact, there are over 40 types of HPV known to infect the genital regions of both men and women.
This article will cover the relationship between HPV and genital cancers to help you identify and assess your risk.
High-Risk and Low-Risk HPV Types
We can classify HPV as either “non-oncogenic” or “oncogenic,” depending on their ability to cause cancer. Research has shown that at least 13 types of HPV are capable of causing cervical cancer. Unfortunately, at least one of these types can cause cancers in genital area, such as the vulva, vagina, penis, and anus, as well as a few types in the head and neck region.
Notably, the types of HPV that cause genital warts are not the same as the ones that cause cancer.
Most people who contract HPV do not show any symptoms and are unaware that they have the infection. Fortunately, the body’s immune system can eliminate the infection within two years in most cases. Nonetheless, at least 80% of women in the US will have been infected with HPV by the age of 50.
It is important to note that the HPV virus is also extremely prevalent in men.
How HPV Infection Can Lead to Cancer
If the body’s immune system fails to clear an HPV infection that leads to cancer, the strains persist and eventually lead to the transformation of normal cells into cancerous ones. For instance, around 10% of women with HPV infection in their cervix develop persistent infections that increase their risk of cervical cancer.
Similarly, long-lasting high-risk HPV infections can cause cell changes that progress to precancerous lesions in the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. These lesions may eventually turn cancerous if left untreated.
Keep in mind that cancers in these regions are considerably less common relative to cervical cancer. So far, scientists are still investigating why HPV causes cancers in certain areas and not others.
Cancers Associated with HPV
Cervical cancer is the most prevalent cancer connected to HPV infection. Other areas of the body may also be affected by cancer. For instance, oropharyngeal cancer may result from chronic HPV infection. This cancer occurs in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils. According to research, HPV is responsible for about 70% of oropharyngeal cancers in the US. High-risk HPVs can cause cancer in the vagina, vulva, cervix, anus, and penis.
Preventing HPV-Associated Cancers
Cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancers associated with HPV can be prevented with vaccines that protect against the most common types of HPV. Additionally, regular screening and follow-up treatment will detect cervical cancer early or prevent it altogether. It’s also important to build your immune system through a healthy lifestyle, getting plenty of rest, eating a diet rich in nutrients and using HPV supplements such as AHCC which is clinically shown to support immune function to fight HPV.
In summary, HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause various types of cancer if left untreated. Regular screening and vaccination can help prevent or detect HPV-associated cancers early, ensuring better outcomes for affected individuals. According to the National Cancer Institute, in the US, high-risk HPVs are responsible for 3% of all cancers in women and 2% of all cancers that affect men. Every year there are 45,000 cases of cancer found in the body in the areas where HPV is found and according to the CDC 36,000 of them are the result of high-risk HPV.