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Top 5 Things You Didn't Know About HPV

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Updated June 25, 2014

With the recent FDA approval of Gardasil, the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), there have been many reports in the media about HPV. Here is what most people don't, but should, know about HPV.

1. You don't need to have sex to contract HPV.

HPV is transmitted through genital skin-to-skin sexual contact. No penetration is needed to contract or transmit the virus. HPV can also be passed though vaginal and anal intercourse. Although less common, the virus can be transmitted through oral sex.

2. Not all types of HPV cause cancer.

HPV is a group of over a hundred different viruses. There are some types that are high-risk, cancer-causing strains, and there are other strains that are known to cause genital warts. The HPV strains responsible for genital warts do not cause cancer, and vice versa.

3. HPV is very common.

It is estimated that over 20 million Americans are infected with HPV, making it the most common sexually transmitted disease.

4. There is no cure for HPV.

The types of HPV that cause genital warts and cervical cancer can be managed, not cured. Genital warts can be treated by removing them, but removal does not "cure" the patient.

High-risk types of HPV known to cause cervical cancer can be detected and managed through routine Pap smears in women.

5. Most people with HPV do not have symptoms.

Most people are unaware they are infected with HPV until they are diagnosed with genital warts or have an abnormal Pap smear. People can still be infected and not show any symptoms of HPV. This is why regular Pap smears are vital for women. Unfortunately, there is not currently a medical test to diagnose HPV in men, except for a visual diagnosis of genital warts.

References:
  1. CDC."Sexually Transmitted Disease Guidelines 2006." Sep 2006.
  2. CDC. "Genital HPV Infection - CDC Fact Sheet". May 2004.
  3. "HPV Vaccine." Nation Immunization Control Program. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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