HPV and Cancers

 

HPV causes 99.7% of cervical cancers [1]. Around 13 high-risk types of HPV are responsible for causing cervical cancers [2]. Within the high–risk group types 16 and 18 are the most prevalent, causing over 70% of cervical cancers [3].
40% to 80% of some anogenital cancers (anus, vulva, vagina and penis), as well as 47% to 70%
of oropharyngeal cancers (head, neck, throat and tongue) are caused by HPV. These cancers of
the mouth and airways are most likely linked to people performing oral sex, not protecting their
mouths and because they lay dormant for many years it surfaces later as a cancer. [4]

How Do I Get HPV?

Anybody who has ever been sexually active is at risk of contracting HPV. People come into contact with this virus, through any skin to skin sexual contact below the waistline with fingers, mouths or other body parts, even without penetration. Condoms give good protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unwanted pregnancies and HPV in general BUT do not fully protect people from this virus because there is still direct skin to skin contact.


Anybody who has ever been sexually active is at risk of contracting HPV. HPV is transmitted primarily by skin-to-skin contact including genital-to-genital contact, anal intercourse and oral sex. The time from exposure to the virus to the development of warts or cervical disease is highly variable and the virus can remain dormant in some people for long periods of time. Often it is not possible to determine exactly when or from whom the infection originated.

High risk HPV infections are very common and infected individuals will have no symptoms, therefore, it is very difficult to tell whether an individual is infected. There is no treatment for a high risk HPV infection. Usually the body’s own immune system will clear the infection. Practicing safe sex through the use of condoms can help reduce the risk of being infected with HPV but it will not completely eradicate the risk as HPV lives on the skin in and around the whole genital area [1]

Is There a Test for an HPV Infection

Females thirty years old and over can find out for certain if they have a high-risk strain of this virus by getting an HPV test. It is performed like a pap smear, there is approx. $100 fee for the HPV test and you get the results typically within two weeks. You must request the HPV test from your health care provider as this is not a routine test. There are many strains of the virus, and as said earlier here some strains of this virus lead to cancers such as cervical cancer. I would recommend all females over thirty years old and over get an HPV test instead of a pap smear because it is more accurate.

There is no test that exists to know if a male has HPV.  The only way a male can know if he has this virus is when treating the symptoms of this virus that may come out as genital warts or an HPV-related cancer such as head, neck, throat, tongue, anal or penile cancer. We can assume that if one person in the relationship has HPV, probably the other person has it too because of how easy it is to come into contact with.


There is no treatment for an HPV infection as usually the body’s own immune system will clear the infection. However a persistent HPV infection with a high-risk type may lead to cervical abnormalities and increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. The results of an HPV test combined with cervical screening cytology (examination of the cells under a microscope) enable faster investigation of those at higher risk of developing cervical cancer, and reassurance of those at very low risk. The test can also reduce the number of unnecessary screening appointments and colposcopies among women with borderline or mild cervical screening cytology results or who have been treated for abnormal cells. If you are interested in getting an HPV test, ask your doctor about getting one with your next Pap test.

The HPV test is carried out using the same sample of cells taken during a cervical screening test. In the laboratory the cells are analysed for current HPV infection.

For more details on HPV facts, please visit Facts on HPV.

 

You can also order an at home HPV test through Eve kit: https://evekit.com/shop/

Facts on HPV

  • HPV stands for Human papillomavirus.
  • It is a common virus with over 100 different types; more than 40 of which are sexually transmitted.
  • It causes 99.4% of cervical cancer cases and 100% of genital warts cases.
  • 80% of sexually active people will contract genital HPV in their lifetime and there are usually no signs or symptoms.
  • It is a virus contracted through skin-to-skin contact, is very infectious, and is spread via sexual activity.
  • The definition of sexual activity: The minute you go below the belt.
  • Condoms reduce the spread of HPV but because they do not fully cover all the skin around the genitals, they do not fully protect you.
  • It only takes one infected sexual partner in an entire lifetime to contract this virus.
  • There are two vaccines available on the market, Gardasil (targeted at preventing the two most common types of HPV associated with genital and anal cancers [HPV 16 and 18], and those associated with genital and anal warts [HPV 6 and 11]) and Cervarix (targeted at preventing the two main HPVs that cause cervical cancer [HPV 16 and 18])
  • From the age of 21, with or without an HPV test, a woman should get a Pap test. It is the only way to see abnormalities that can lead to cervical cancer later in life.
  • Statistics Canada estimates that every year 1,502 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 581 will die from it, while another 220 will die from cancer of the vulva or vagina.

HPV in Summary

    • Your first sexual experience puts you at risk of infection.
    • You are still at risk of contracting HPV even if you do not have penetrative sex as the virus is transmitted through genital skin to skin contact.
    • Infection with HPV does NOT imply either infidelity or promiscuity.
    • If you get high risk HPV you will not require treatment nor will your partner. However if your cervical screening test detects abnormal cells and high risk HPV you may be sent for further examination.
    • A strong immune system can help your body to clear HPV infection.
    • Smoking can make it harder for the body to clear HPV.
    • It can take 12 to 18 months to clear a high risk HPV infection.
      • HPV stands for the Human papillomavirus
      • HPV is highly contagious because it is transmitted through skin to skin contact below the waistline.
      • The use of a condom during sexual relationships do not offer complete protection from HPV, as the condom does not cover the entire genital area. [2]
      • An often neglected and crucial fact that is all too often poorly understood is that HPV affects men as well as women, so boys and men should be included in education and any endeavors around HPV. [2]
      • The highest rates of HPV infection are found in youths under the age of 25. [3]
      • Types 6 and 11 of HPV causes genital warts, and HPV types 16 and 18 can cause several cancers, and almost 100% of cervical cancers. There are vaccines currently available to protect against both. [2]
    • 40% to 80% of some anogenital cancers (anus, vulva, vagina and penis), as well as 47% to 70% of oropharyngeal cancers (head, neck, throat and tongue) are caused by HPV. These cancers of the mouth and airways are most likely linked to people performing oral sex, not protecting their mouths and because they lay dormant for many years it surfaces later as a cancer. [2]
    • HPV can stay dormant in both men and women for up to 30 years, making people of all ages affected by HPV, because of how long the virus can stay asleep in a person’s body. [4]
    • The prevalence of anal cancer, which is believed to be caused by HPV, has doubled in the past 25 years. [3]
    • 80% of sexually active people will contract HPV in their lifetime. [1]
    • HPV can be prevented and detected before turning into a full-blown cervical cancer. [4]
      • Families around the country are affected by HPV, with 3000 Canadians diagnosed with an HPV related cancer yearly. [5]
References

HPV and Cancers.

  1. Walboomers JMM et al.,1999. Human papillomavirus is a necessary cause of invasive cancer worldwide. Journal of Pathology, 189 (1), 12–19.
  2. Li N et al., 2011. Human papillomavirus type distribution in 30,848 invasive cervical cancers worldwide: variation by geographical region, histological type and year of publication. International Journal of Cancer 128, 927–935.
  3. Bosch FX et al., 2008. Epidemiology and natural history of human papillomavirus infections and type-specific implications in cervical neoplasia. Vaccine 26 (10), K1-16.
  4. Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec (INSPQ). (2013). Les infections au virus du papillome humain (VPH) et le portrait des cancers associés à ces infections au Québec. Taken from: http://www.inspq.qc.ca/pdf/publications/1709_infecVPHPortrCancersAssoInfecQc.pdf

How Do I Get HPV?

  1. Winer RL et al., 2003. Genital human papillomavirus infection: incidence and risk factors in a cohort of female university students. American Journal of Epidemiology 157 (3), 218-226.

HPV in Summary.

  1. Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. (2014). The 2014 Cancer System Performance Report. Toronto: Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. Taken from: http://www.cancerview.ca/idc/groups/public/documents/webcontent/sp_report_2014.pdf
  2. Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec (INSPQ). (2013). Les infections au virus du papillome humain (VPH) et le portrait des cancers associés à ces infections au Québec. Taken from: http://www.inspq.qc.ca/pdf/publications/1709_infecVPHPortrCancersAssoInfecQc.pdf
  3. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC). Incidence and prevalence of HPV in Canada. Taken from: http://www.hpvinfo.ca/health-care-professionals/what-is-hpv/incidence-andprevalence-of-hpv-in-canada
  4. Facts about HPV. http://www.mcgill.ca/hitchcohort/hpvfacts#LIFETIME
  5. Bruni L, Barrionuevo-Rosas L, Albero G, Aldea M, Serrano B, Valencia S, Brotons M, Mena M, Cosano R, Muñoz J, Bosch FX, de Sanjosé S, Castellsagué X. ICO Information Centre on HPV and Cancer (HPV Information Centre). Human Papillomavirus and Related Diseases in Canada. Summary Report 2014-12-18

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