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Cervical Health Awareness Month: 5 Things You Need to Know about HPV

January 7, 2015
Approximately 79 million Americans have HPV (human papillomavirus), which is a major cause of cervical cancer. HPVs are a group of more than 150 related viruses. More than 40 of these viruses can be easily spread through direct skin-to-skin contact. Most infections with high-risk HPVs do not cause cancer. Many HPV infections disappear within two years, but infections lasting several years may increase the risk of developing cancer. High-risk HPV infection accounts for approximately five percent of all cancers.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, and you may be surprised by what you do not know about the disease. Here are five things you should know about HPV:

1. HPV can be prevented with the HPV vaccine.

2. Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care.

3. Many people with HPV do not know they are infected.

4. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the U.S.

5. Almost every sexually active person will acquire HPV at some points in their lives.

(Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two HPV vaccines, both of which help to prevent infections with high-risk HPV types. Currently, there is no medical treatment for HPV infections, however warts and precancerous lesions resulting from HPV infections can be treated.

Certain factors may increase the risk of developing cancer following a high-risk HPV infection, including smoking, having a weakened immune system, having many children, using oral contraceptives over a long period of time, having poor oral hygiene and/or suffering from chronic inflammation.

For more information about HPV, please visit the National Cancer Institute and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.