Genital Warts, Human Papilloma Virus & Cancers (The Connections)

What Are Genital Warts?

These are a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). These are skin growths in the genitalia and can cause pain, discomfort, and itching. These growths are especially dangerous for women because some types of HPV can also cause cervical cancer.
Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. A healthcare provider can usually diagnose warts by looking at the genital area. Genital warts affect both women and men, but women are more vulnerable to complication.


What is Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)?

This is by far, the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. The good news, some health effects caused by HPV can be prevented with vaccines. This virus is so common that nearly all sexually active people get it at some point in their lives. There are however, many different types of HPV and some types can cause health problems including genital warts and cancers.
In the US, the CDC now recommends 11 to 12 year olds get two doses of HPV vaccine—rather than the previously recommended three doses—to protect against cancers caused by HPV. The second dose should be given 6-12 months after the first dose.

How is HPV spread? Transmission mode?

1. Via sexual practices like having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus.
2. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex.
3. HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms.
4. Anyone who is sexually active can get HPV, even if you have had sex with only one person.
5. You also can develop symptoms years after you have sex with someone who is infected.
6. This makes it hard to know when you first became infected.

So, Does HPV always cause health problems?

Well, generally yes, in most cases, however in some people, it goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer.


Does HPV/ Genital Warts Cause Cancer?

Yes! Some types of HPV can cause cervical and other cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer).

Please, note, cancer often takes years, even decades, to develop after a person gets HPV. The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types of HPV that can cause cancers.
There is no way to know which people who have HPV will develop cancer or other health problems. People with weak immune systems (including those with HIV/AIDS) may be less able to fight off HPV. They may also be more likely to develop health problems from HPV.


So, Who Should Get Vaccinated?

1. All boys and girls ages 11 or 12 years should get vaccinated.
2. Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males through age 21 and for females through age 26, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger.
3. The vaccine is also recommended for gay and bisexual men (or any man who has sex with a man) through age 26.
4. It is also recommended for men and women with compromised immune systems (including those living with HIV/AIDS) through age 26, if they did not get fully vaccinated when they were younger.
Thank you.


References, Culled, Adapted and Photo Credit
• Mayo Clinic
• WebMD