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 over 100 different types of HPV, and they are classified into low-risk and high-risk types based on their potential to cause health problems.

Low-risk HPV types can cause warts on the hands, feet, or genitals. These warts are usually harmless and can be treated, but they may cause discomfort or embarrassment. High-risk HPV types are associated with several types of cancers, including cervical cancer, anal cancer, and oropharyngeal cancer. Persistent infection with high-risk HPV types is the primary cause of cervical cancer, which is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide.

HPV is usually transmitted through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Most people with HPV do not have any symptoms and may not know they are infected. In many cases, the immune system clears the virus without causing any health problems. However, in some people, the virus persists and can lead to the development of warts or cancer over time.

Preventive measures for HPV include vaccination and safe sexual practices, such as using condoms and limiting the number of sexual partners. The HPV vaccine is highly effective at preventing infection with the most common high-risk types of the virus and has been shown to reduce the incidence of HPV-related diseases, including cervical cancer.

Regular screening for cervical cancer, such as Pap tests or HPV tests, is also important for early detection and treatment of precancerous changes in the cervix. Early detection can greatly improve the chances of successful treatment and reduce the risk of developing invasive cancer.

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