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Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of more than 100 different types of viruses. More than 40 types of HPV are transmitted through sexual intercourse, genital skin-to-skin contact and oral sex. These types can infect the genital areas of both women and men, including the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus and penis, as well as certain parts of the mouth and throat (the oropharynx).
It is estimated that about 75% of sexually active men and women will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime. Most HPV infections come and go over the course of a few years. This makes it hard to know exactly when or how the virus was transmitted.
Sexually transmitted HPV is considered either high risk or low risk for developing cancer.
Infection with high-risk HPV can cause infected cells to change or become abnormal. These precancerous changes can lead to cancer. HPV16 and HPV18 are the most common high-risk types and are responsible for 70% of cervical cancers.
Infection with high-risk HPV is also linked to cancers of the penis, anus, vulva, vagina, as well as the mouth and throat.
Infection with low-risk HPV doesn’t cause precancerous changes and doesn’t increase your risk of cancer. But low-risk types of HPV can cause genital warts. The 2 low-risk types of HPV that are responsible for 90% of genital warts are HPV6 and HPV11.