Warts Causes Cervical Cancer

More than 100 strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) have been identified. The American Cancer Society estimates that 24 million Americans may be infected by HPV. Warts on the hands, feet, face and genitals are the most common symptom of HPV infection.

You can be infected with HPV and not know it, and frequently your body’s immune system can fight HPV on its own. However, HPV infection can be very serious. The National Cancer Institute now considers persistent HPV infections to be the major cause of cervical cancer.

What Are the Cervical Cancer-HPV Infection Links?

If you have cervical cancer, HPV is the probable cause, but if you have HPV, cervical cancer is not necessarily the result. Although 26.8 percent of American women tested positive for HPV in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the annual number of new cervical cancer cases is only 11,000.

Scientists continue to study why, in some women, HPV infection progresses to cervical cancer, and have identified smoking and having many children as additional risk factors.

High-Risk HPV: Warts Aren’t the Only Problem

Researchers have identified certain strains of HPV as high- or low-risk. With low risk HPV, warts can be the most troublesome result. This includes HPV 6 and HPV 11, the HPV strains that cause genital warts and are not associated with cervical cancer.

However, the National Cancer Institute reports that HPV 16 and HPV 18 cause about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. Researchers have identified at least 13 other high-risk strains

The Importance of Pap Tests

Doctors emphasize the importance of regular Pap tests and pelvic exams because cervical cancer symptoms often don’t appear until the cancer has spread. The Pap smear is designed to detect abnormal cervical changes. If cervical cell changes are detected, doctors can take action before the cells become cancerous, or before the cancer has spread.

HPV is a known precursor to cervical cancer. Strain identification can help doctors determine the need for follow-up screening and treatment.

See a physician if you experience any of the following cervical cancer symptoms:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Unusual vaginal discharge.

Cervical Cancer, HPV Prevention

Although prevention may be a better option than HPV treatment, HPV prevention is still an emerging trend. Condom use can reduce the spread of HPV, although condoms don’t offer complete protection. The risk of HPV infection increases with the number of sexual partners.

In 2006, the FDA approved the use of a vaccine found effective at preventing HPV high-risk strains 16 and 18, and low-risk strains 6 and 11, associated with genital warts. The vaccine is targeted at girls between the ages of 12 and 13.

Resources

American Cancer Society. (2010). Cervical cancer.Retrieved June 7, 2010, from: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CervicalCancer/DetailedGuide/index.

Cornforth, T. (2010). The HPV cervical cancerconnection. Retrieved April 20, 2010, from: http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/cervicalcancer/a/hpvcervcancercn.htm.

National Cancer Institute. (2007). Study estimates overall HPV prevalence in U.S. women. Retrieved June 7, 2010, from: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/hpv-prevalence0307.

National Cancer Institute. (2008). Human papillomaviruses and cancer: Questions and answers. Retrieved June 7, 2010, from: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/HPV.