What causes cervical cancer?

ASK AN EXPERT

[.higlighted] Q: Dear Teal, [.higlighted] What causes cervical cancer?

A: Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of 200+ related viruses, some of which cause 90 percent of cervical cancers. Sexually transmitted HPV types (mucosal/genital) fall into two groups: low-risk and high-risk HPV.

High-risk HPV (hrHPV) can lead to cancer. It is routinely screened for as part of your cervical cancer screening whereas low-risk HPV is not. 

There are 14 types of 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.

Back to Q&A
Liz Swenson, MD
Medical Director

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.