Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of related viruses that infect the skin and mucous membranes of humans. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) worldwide. There are more than 100 types of HPV, and around 40 of these types can infect the genital area.

HPV is typically spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact. Some types of HPV can cause genital warts, while others are linked to various cancers, including cervical cancer, anal cancer, penile cancer, vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, and some cancers of the head and neck.

Most HPV infections do not cause any symptoms and are cleared by the body’s immune system within one to two years without causing any health problems. However, persistent infection with certain high-risk HPV types can lead to the development of cancer over time.

Preventive measures against HPV include vaccination and practicing safe sex, such as using condoms. Vaccines are available to protect against certain types of HPV that are most commonly associated with cervical cancer and genital warts. It’s recommended that both boys and girls receive the HPV vaccine around the ages of 11 or 12, although it can be given as early as age 9 and up to age 26 for females and age 21 for males who have not already been vaccinated.

Regular screening, such as Pap smears for cervical cancer, is also important for early detection and treatment of HPV-related abnormalities. Treatment for HPV-related conditions varies depending on the specific condition and its severity, and may include medications, surgical procedures, or other interventions.

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