Human Papillomavirus

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Some health effects caused by HPV can be prevented by the HPV vaccines.

What is HPV?

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV is a different virus than HIV and HSV (herpes). 79 million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV. There are many different types of HPV. Some types can cause health problems including genital warts and cancers. But there are vaccines that can stop these health problems from happening.

How is HPV spread?

You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.

Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person. You also can develop symptoms years after you have sex with someone who is infected. This makes it hard to know when you first became infected.

Does HPV cause health problems?

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer.

Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. A healthcare provider can usually diagnose warts by looking at the genital area.

Does HPV cause cancer?

HPV can cause cervical and other cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer).

Cancer often takes years, even decades, to develop after a person gets HPV. The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types of HPV that can cause cancers.

There is no way to know which people who have HPV will develop cancer or other health problems. People with weak immune systems (including those with HIV/AIDS) may be less able to fight off HPV. They may also be more likely to develop health problems from HPV.

How can I avoid HPV and the health problems it can cause?

You can do several things to lower your chances of getting HPV.

Get vaccinated. The HPV vaccine is safe and effective. It can protect against diseases (including cancers) caused by HPV when given in the recommended age groups. (See “Who should get vaccinated?” below) CDC recommends 11 to 12 year olds get two doses of HPV vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV. For more information on the recommendations, please see: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/hpv/public/index.html

Get screened for cervical cancer. Routine screening for women aged 21 to 65 years old can prevent cervical cancer.

If you are sexually active

  • Use latex condoms the right way every time you have sex. This can lower your chances of getting HPV. But HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom – so condoms may not fully protect against getting HPV;
  • Be in a mutually monogamous relationship – or have sex only with someone who only has sex with you.

    Who should get vaccinated?

    All boys and girls ages 11 or 12 years should get vaccinated.

    Catch-up vaccines are recommended for boys and men through age 21 and for girls and women through age 26, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger.

    The vaccine is also recommended for gay and bisexual men (or any man who has sex with a man) through age 26. It is also recommended for men and women with compromised immune systems (including those living with HIV/AIDS) through age 26, if they did not get fully vaccinated when they were younger.

    How do I know if I have HPV?

    There is no test to find out a person’s “HPV status.” Also, there is no approved HPV test to find HPV in the mouth or throat.

    There are HPV tests that can be used to screen for cervical cancer. These tests are only recommended for screening in women aged 30 years and older. HPV tests are not recommended to screen men, adolescents, or women under the age of 30 years.

    Most people with HPV do not know they are infected and never develop symptoms or health problems from it. Some people find out they have HPV when they get genital warts. Women may find out they have HPV when they get an abnormal Pap test result (during cervical cancer screening). Others may only find out once they’ve developed more serious problems from HPV, such as cancers.

    How common is HPV and the health problems caused by HPV?

    HPV (the virus): About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. About 14 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that almost every person who is sexually-active will get HPV at some time in their life if they don’t get the HPV vaccine.

    Health problems related to HPV include genital warts and cervical cancer.

    Genital warts: Before HPV vaccines were introduced, roughly 340,000 to 360,000 women and men were affected by genital warts caused by HPV every year.* Also, about one in 100 sexually active adults in the U.S. has genital warts at any given time.

    Cervical cancer: Every year, nearly 12,000 women living in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, and more than 4,000 women die from cervical cancer—even with screening and treatment.

    There are other conditions and cancers caused by HPV that occur in people living in the United States. Every year, approximately 19,400 women and 12,100 men are affected by cancers caused by HPV.

    *These figures only look at the number of people who sought care for genital warts. This could be an underestimate of the actual number of people who get genital warts.

    I’m pregnant. Will having HPV affect my pregnancy?

    If you are pregnant and have HPV, you can get genital warts or develop abnormal cell changes on your cervix. Abnormal cell changes can be found with routine cervical cancer screening. You should get routine cervical cancer screening even when you are pregnant.

    Can I be treated for HPV or health problems caused by HPV?

    There is no treatment for the virus itself. However, there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause:

  • Genital warts can be treated by your healthcare provider or with prescription medication. If left untreated, genital warts may go away, stay the same, or grow in size or number.
  • Cervical precancer can be treated. Women who get routine Pap tests and follow up as needed can identify problems before cancer develops. Prevention is always better than treatment. For more information visit www.cancer.org.
  • Other HPV-related cancers are also more treatable when diagnosed and treated early. For more information visit www.cancer.org.

    Cancer Information

    Cervical Cancer Screening

    CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program

    STD information and referrals to STD Clinics
    CDC-INFO
    1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)
    TTY: 1-888-232-6348
    In Englishen Español

    CDC National Prevention Information Network (NPIN)
    P.O. Box 6003
    Rockville, MD 20849-6003
    E-mail: 
    npin-info@cdc.gov

    National HPV and Cervical Cancer Prevention Resource Center American Sexual Health Association (ASHA)
    P. O. Box 13827
    Research Triangle Park, NC
    27709-3827
    1-800-783-9877
     

    https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm

    What is HPV?

    HPV is short for human papillomavirus.

    HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses. Each HPV virus in this large group is given a number which is called its HPV type. HPV is named for the warts (papillomas) some HPV types can cause. Some other HPV types can lead to cancer. Men and women can get cancer of mouth/ throat, and anus/rectum caused by HPV infections. Men can also get penile HPV cancer. In women, HPV infection can also cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar HPV cancers. But there are vaccines that can prevent infection with the types of HPV that most commonly cause cancer.

    How do people get HPV?

    HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex. HPV is so common that nearly all men and women get it at some point in their lives. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms. You can develop symptoms years after being infected, making it hard to know when you first became infected.

    In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer.

    Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or groups of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. A healthcare provider can usually diagnose warts by looking at the genital area.

    HPV cancers include cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. HPV infection can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.

    https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/whatishpv.html

    More Q&A about the Health Effects of HPV

    Q: How common are HPV infections?

    A: HPV infections are so common that nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. Most people never know that they have been infected and may give HPV to a sex partner without knowing it. Nearly 80 million Americans are currently infected with some type of HPV. About 14 million people in the United States become newly infected each year. 

    Q: What kinds of problems does HPV infection cause?

    A: Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. Most HPV infections (9 out of 10) go away by themselves within two years. But, sometimes, HPV infections will last longer, and can cause certain cancers and other diseases. HPV infections can cause:

  • cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
  • cancers of the penis in men; and
  • cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx), in both women and men. Every year in the United States, HPV causes 30,700 cancers in men and women. 

    Q: How do people get an HPV infection?

    A: People get HPV from another person during intimate sexual contact. Most of the time, people get HPV from having vaginal and/or anal sex. Men and women can also get HPV from having oral sex or other sex play. A person can get HPV even if their partner doesn’t have any signs or symptoms of HPV infection. A person can have HPV even if years have passed since he or she had sexual contact with an infected person. Most people do not realize they are infected. They also don’t know that they may be passing HPV to their sex partner(s). It is possible for someone to get more than one type of HPV.

    It’s not very common, but sometimes a pregnant woman with HPV can pass it to her baby during delivery. The child might develop recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP), a rare but dangerous condition where warts caused by HPV (similar to genital warts) grow inside the throat.

    There haven’t been any documented cases of people getting HPV from surfaces in the environment, such as toilet seats. However, someone could be exposed to HPV from objects (toys) shared during sexual activity if the object has been used by an infected person.

    Q: Who should get HPV vaccine?

    A: All girls and boys who are 11 or 12 years old should get the recommended series of HPV vaccine. The vaccination series can be started at age 9 years. Teen boys and girls who did not get vaccinated when they were younger should get it now. HPV vaccine is recommended for young women through age 26, and young men through age 21. HPV vaccine is also recommended for the following people, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger:

  • young men who have sex with men, including young men who identify as gay or bisexual or who intend to have sex with men through age 26;
  • young adults who are transgender through age 26; and
  • young adults with certain immunocompromising conditions (including HIV) through age 26.

    Q: Why are two doses recommended for 9–14 year olds, while older adolescents need three doses?

    A: Since 2006, HPV vaccines have been recommended in a three-dose series given over six months. In 2016, CDC changed the recommendation to two doses for persons starting the series before their 15th birthday. The second dose of HPV vaccine should be given six to twelve months after the first dose. Adolescents who receive their two doses less than five months apart will require a third dose of HPV vaccine.

    Teens and young adults who start the series at ages 15 through 26 years still need three doses of HPV vaccine Also, three doses are still recommended for people with certain immunocompromising conditions aged 9 through 26 years.

    CDC makes recommendations based on the best available scientific evidence. Studies have shown that two doses of HPV vaccine given at least six months apart to adolescents at age 9–14 years worked as well or better than three doses given to older adolescents and young adults. Studies have not been done to show this for adolescents starting the series at age 15 years or older. 

    Q: Why is HPV vaccine recommended at age 11 or 12 years?

    A: For HPV vaccine to be most effective, the series should be given prior to exposure to HPV. There is no reason to wait to vaccinate until teens reach puberty or start having sex. Preteens should receive all recommended doses of the HPV vaccine series long before they begin any type of sexual activity. 

    Q: How well does HPV vaccine work?

    A: HPV vaccines work extremely well. Clinical trials showed HPV vaccines provide close to 100% protection against cervical precancers and genital warts. Since the first HPV vaccine was recommended in 2006, there has been a 64% reduction in vaccine-type HPV infections among teen girls in the United States. Studies have shown that fewer teens are getting genital warts and cervical precancers are decreasing. In other countries, such as Australia, where HPV vaccination coverage is higher than in the United States, large decreases have been observed in these HPV-associated outcomes. HPV vaccines offer long-lasting protection against HPV infection and HPV disease. There has been no evidence to suggest that HPV vaccine loses any ability to provide protection over time. Data are available for about 10 years of follow-up after vaccination.

    Like all vaccines, HPV vaccine is monitored on an ongoing basis to make sure it remains safe and effective. If it turns out that protection from HPV vaccine is not long-lasting, then the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices would review the data and determine whether a booster dose would be recommended.

    Even if it has been months or years since the last shot, the HPV vaccine series should be completed—but they do not need to restart the series.

    HPV vaccine is recommended based on age, not sexual experience. Even if someone has already had sex, they should still get HPV vaccine. Even though a person’s first HPV infection usually happens during one of the first few sexual experiences, a person might not be exposed to all of the HPV types that are covered by HPV vaccines.

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    Q: Does HPV vaccination offer similar protection from cervical cancer in all racial/ethnic groups?

    A: Yes. Several different HPV types cause cervical cancer. HPV vaccines are designed to prevent the HPV types that cause most cervical cancers, so HPV vaccination will provide high protection for all racial/ethnic groups.

    All three licensed HPV vaccines protect against types 16 and 18, which cause the majority of cervical cancers across racial/ethnic groups (67% of the cervical cancers among whites, 68% among blacks, and 64% among Hispanics). The 9-valent HPV vaccine protects against seven HPV types that cause about 80% of cervical cancer among all racial/ethnic groups in the United States.

    Teens and young adults who haven’t completed the HPV vaccine series should make an appointment today to get vaccinated. To protect against cervical cancer, women age 21–65 years should get screened for cervical cancer at regular intervals and get follow-up care as recommended by their doctor or nurse.

    Q: How do we know that the HPV vaccine is safe?

    A: The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in history. Years of testing are required by law to ensure the safety of vaccines before they are made available for use in the United States. This process can take ten years or longer. Once a vaccine is in use, CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitor any associated side effects or possible side effects (adverse events) through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System and other vaccine safety systems.

    All three HPV vaccines—Cervarix®, Gardasil®, and Gardasil® 9—went through years of extensive safety testing before they were licensed by FDA. Cervarix® was studied in clinical trials with more than 30,000 females. Gardasil® trials included more than 29,000 females and males, and Gardasil® 9 trials included more than 15,000 females and males. No serious safety concerns were identified in these clinical trials. FDA only licenses a vaccine if it is safe, effective, and the benefits outweigh the risks. CDC and FDA continue to monitor HPV vaccines to make sure they are safe and beneficial for the public. 

    Q: What are the possible side effects of HPV vaccination?

    A: Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. Many people who get HPV vaccine have no side effects at all. Some people report having very mild side effects, like a sore arm. The most common side effects are usually mild. Common side effects of HPV vaccine include:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was given
  • Fever
  • Headache or feeling tired
  • Nausea
  • Muscle or joint pain

Brief fainting spells and related symptoms (such as jerking movements) can happen after any medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down while getting a shot and then staying that way for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by falls that could occur from fainting.

On very rare occasions, severe (anaphylactic) allergic reactions may occur after vaccination. People with severe allergies to any component of a vaccine should not receive that vaccine.

HPV vaccine does not cause HPV infection or cancer. HPV vaccine is made from one protein from the virus, and is not infectious, meaning that it cannot cause HPV infection or cancer. Not receiving HPV vaccine at the recommended ages can leave one vulnerable to cancers caused by HPV.

There are no data that suggest getting HPV vaccine will have an effect on future fertility for women. In fact, getting vaccinated and protecting against HPV-related cancers can help women and families have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.

Not getting HPV vaccine leaves people vulnerable to HPV infection and related cancers. Treatments for cancers and precancers might include surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation, which might cause pregnancy complications or leave someone unable to have children.

Q: Why is this vaccine not mandatory for school entry?

A: Each state determines which vaccines are required for school entry. Many factors are taken into consideration before requiring any vaccine for school entry, including: community support for the requirement, financial resources needed to implement the requirement, burden on school personnel for enforcing the requirement, vaccine supply, and current vaccination coverage levels.

Since almost every state requires Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis vaccine) for middle school entry, parents can use this visit to the doctor to get the first HPV and quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccines for their preteen at the same time.

Q: How can someone get help paying for HPV vaccine?

A: The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. The program provides vaccines at no cost to children ages 18 years and younger who are uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, or American Indian/Alaska Native. To learn more, see VFC program.

https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/questions-answers.html

 


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