Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name given to a grouping of over 150 viruses that are genetically related to each other. A person can be infected with more than one type of HPV at any one time. The types of HPV that are linked with cancer are specifically referred to as carcinogenic, oncogenic, and high risk HPV types. All types of HPV, high and low risk, actually cause the body to grow cells that are abnormal, but only the specific high risk HPV types have been specifically linked as a cause of cancer.
HPV cancer and the different HPV types
Of the 150 types of known HPV, 10% or 15, are high risk and known to lead to HPV cancer. Of these 15 types there are two, types 16 and 18, that are linked to over 70% of HPV related cervical cancer and type 18 alone is directly related as a cause of 85% of cancers of the anus. Oropharyngeal cancer also known as cancer of the pharynx or throat is almost exclusively caused by type 16 HPV. Infection of the genitals with HPV is also a common cause of vulva, penis, and vagina cancer.
HPV Vancer Stats
It has been estimated that nearly five percent of all cancer throughout the world is directly related to one or more types of HPV. Cervical cancer currently has a 33% mortality rate within the United States and out of the 12,000 cases diagnosed in the United states in 2011, 4,000 of the patients are expected to die. Worldwide, cervical HPV cancer is likely to be found in 500,000 women and with a 50% mortality rate outside of the United States, 250,000 of these women are expected to die. The statistics for anal cancer in men is that of the 5,000 cases yearly in the United States, 770 will die.
The primary risk factor in being infected with HPV is having multiple sex partners. This is not to say that infection with HPV will lead to HPV cancer. Even high risk type HPV infections, even those that are connected with persistent abnormal cell growth and change in the cervix, rarely turn cancerous. In some studies it has been found that the percentage of high risk persistent infections that turn cancerous are very small and may be affected by other risk factors such as having had multiple children or if the patient smokes.
Limiting the number of partners that a person has genital contact with over their lifetime is the best way to limit risk for HPV cancer. This limited contact must be mutual between both partners. Some research has shown that consistent use of a condom for all types of sexual interaction can limit exposure to the virus but will not prevent infection entirely.