Is it true that HPV causes cancer?


[.highlighted]Q: Dear Teal, [.highlighted]

I am 25 years old and many of my friends have HPV. It makes me worry I am also going to get it. I have heard it can cause cancer. Is this true?

A: Yes and no. There are 14 types of high-risk HPV (hrHPV) that can cause cancer. Among them, HPV 16 and 18 are the highest risk types, known to cause most cervical cancers and are therefore specifically reported in your screening results.

Not all hrHPV infections lead to cancer, but according to the CDC, about 10 percent of people with the infection can develop (pre)cancer of the cervix.

hrHPV can also lead to cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, mouth, and throat. Infection with low-risk types of HPV are often asymptomatic and do not typically lead to cervical cancer. But low-risk HPV can cause other problems, like genital warts. If you are diagnosed with HPV, it’s important to speak with your provider to understand which type you have and whether you will require any treatment.

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Liz Swenson, MD, FACOG, MSCP
Medical Director & OBGYN

Liz Swenson is a board-certified OB/GYN who has been providing care to women for more than 20 years. She has learned that women are genuinely interested in their own health and want to understand the science behind their medical conditions. Originally from Iowa, she completed her medical training in Northern California where she still lives with her husband and two daughters. She has worked in a busy multispecialty practice in Palo Alto and has taught OBGYN residents as an Adjunct Clinical Faculty Member of Stanford University. Now, with a focus on helping all women have choices and access to the gynecological care they need, she is excited to use her clinical experience to help improve the lives and longevity of all Teal patients.

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