What Is the Role of Human Papilloma Virus in Cervical Cancer?
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Role of Human Papilloma Virus in Cervical Cancer

Published on Dec 19, 2022   -  6 min read


The human papillomavirus is the major contributor to the spread of cervical cancer. Read the article to know more.

What Is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

Globally, the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection affects around 14,000,000 people annually, with a lifetime infection risk of more than 80 %. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA) virus member of the papillomavirus family. The small double-stranded circular DNA virus, the human papillomavirus (HPV), has a genome of about 8000 base pairs. The only tissue in which the human papillomavirus (HPV) replicates is the basal cells of the stratified epithelium.

What Are the Types Of Human Papillomavirus?

More than 200 related viruses, most through vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse, are collectively referred to as papillomavirus (HPV). There are two sexually transmitted HPV types: low risk and high risk.

  • Low-Risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV)- This causes no illness; however, some varieties of the virus can result in warts around the genitalia, anus, mouth, or neck.

  • High-Risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV)- High-risk HPVs can bring on numerous cancers. About 14 HPV varieties, including HPV 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 66, and 68, are considered high-risk. The majority of HPV-related malignancies are caused by two of these, HPV16 and HPV18.

What Is the Incidence of Human Papillomavirus?

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is widespread: within a few months to a few years of engaging in sexual activity, almost anyone who is sexually active contracts HPV.

  • These infections have a high-risk HPV type in about half of the cases.

  • Men and women can contract human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and malignancies brought on by the virus.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 36,000 new HPV cases are responsible for around five percent of all malignant; thus, an estimated 570,000 women and 60,000 men develop HPV-related cancer each year.

How Can the Human Papillomavirus Lead to Cervical Cancer?

  • Cervical cancer is one of the most common malignancies and the leading cause of cancer-related fatalities.

  • When high-risk HPV infects cells, it obstructs the methods by which these cells communicate with one another, leading to excessive cell proliferation.

  • The immune system typically recognizes and suppresses these contaminated cells.

  • In some instances, the infected cells persist and expand further, eventually forming a cluster of precancerous cells that, if left untreated, can develop into cancer.

  • According to studies, HPV-infected cervical cells can take between 10 and 20 years—or even longer—to develop into a malignant tumor.

Does the Human Papillomavirus Always Lead to Cancer?

Which Cancer Is Caused by Human Papillomavirus Infection?

Adenocarcinomas are cervical cancers caused by HPV infection of gland cells in the cervix. Long-term infections with high-risk HPV can lead to cancer in various areas of the body, such as the cervix, oropharynx, tongue, soft palate, and throat. HPV affects squamous cells lining the inner surfaces of these organs. As a result, the vast majority of HPV-related cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. Cancers caused by HPV include:

Cervical Cancer:

  • HPV is responsible for nearly all cervical malignancies.

  • Routine screening can prevent the precancerous cells before they become malignant.

Cancers of the Oropharynx:

  • Most of the malignancies of the throat (the tonsils or the back of the tongue) are caused by HPV.

  • Each year, new cases rise, and oropharyngeal malignancies are now the most frequent HPV-related malignancy.

Anal Cancer:

  • HPV is responsible for more than 90 % of anal cancers.

  • Women are twice as likely as men.

Penile Cancer:

  • HPV causes most penile malignancies (over 60 %), a rare type of cancer.

Vulvar Cancer:

  • HPV is responsible for 70 % of vulvar malignancies.

How Does Human Papillomavirus Spread?

The infection is easily transmitted between sexual partners. HPV is easily transmitted between sexual partners through any intimate skin-to-skin contact, including:

  1. Vaginal-penile intercourse.

  2. Penile-anal sex.

  3. Penile-oral sex.

  4. Vaginal-oral sex.

  5. The use of sex toys or other objects.

Is Human Papillomavirus Infection Associated With Symptoms of Cervical Cancer?

In most cases, high-risk HPV infection does not result in symptoms.

  • The precancerous cell alterations caused by a chronic HPV infection at the cervix seldom elicit symptoms. Thus, regular cervical cancer screening is critical.

  • Some of the symptoms may be itching or bleeding.

  • In addition, if an HPV infection progresses to cancer, it may cause symptoms such as bleeding, discomfort, or swollen glands.

What Are the Risk Factors of HPV Infections in Cervical Cancer?

  • Various factors raise the likelihood of high-risk HPV infection in precancerous cervical cells. These consist of a particularly aggressive HPV type, such as HPV 16 or HPV 18.

  • Smoking tobacco can harm the body's defense against HPV.

  • A compromised immune system or medications that suppress the immune system may also be a risk factor for HPV infections.

How Can Cervical Cancer by Human Papillomavirus Infections Be Prevented?

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines:

  • These vaccines can prevent cancer and infections, averting many genital warts and malignancies associated with HPV.

  • HPV vaccination offers significant protection against new HPV infections.

  • However, it is only for prevention; it does not treat disease once it has occurred.

  • It is predicted that HPV immunization can prevent up to 90 % of HPV-related malignancies.

Condoms and Dental Dams:

  • Using condoms and dental dams during oral or penile sexual intercourse can reduce the likelihood of HPV transmission but does not entirely prevent it.

Who Should Be Vaccinated Against Human Papillomavirus?

  • HPV vaccination is suggested for young people up to the age of 26.

  • The HPV vaccine series is advised for males and females since both might acquire malignancies of the mouth and throat, anal cancers, and genital warts.

  • Cervical cancer is also a concern for women, while penile cancer is a risk for men.

  • Vaccination can also help to limit the spread of HPV, which causes cancer.

Can the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine Be Administered at an Older Age?

  • Adults between 27 and 45 who have not received vaccinations can obtain the vaccine.

  • Adults in this age range benefit less from the vaccine because they have already been exposed to HPV.

  • As a result, immunization is not usually recommended for people of this age.

  • However, this vaccine can provide immunity against any new HPV infection; thus, older people can benefit from it.

How Is Human Papillomavirus Testing Done?

Cervical Cancer Screening:

  • Cervical cancer screening tests are conducted to detect high-risk HPV in cervical cells.

  • Cervical cancer screening aims to detect precancerous cell alterations before they develop into cancer and when therapy can prevent cancer.

  • Cervical cancer screening is an essential aspect of routine health care for women and homosexual males with cervixes.

The Pap Smear Test:

  • This test is conducted for all cervical cell alterations caused by high-risk HPV.

  • Cervical cancer is currently the only HPV-related cancer for which FDA-approved screening tests are available.

What Is the Treatment for Human Papillomavirus Infection in Cervical Cancer?

The cure for high-risk HPV infection is not yet established; however, the human papillomavirus infection can be treated.

Treatment options for genital warts and precancerous vaginal, vulvar, penile, and anal lesions include:

  1. Topical medications.

  2. Surgical removal.

  3. Cryosurgery.

  4. Laser therapy.

  5. The loop electrosurgical excision treatment (LEEP) - It is a technique to remove abnormal tissue.


Human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cervical cancer is a common illness globally. With the development of HPV vaccines, it has become possible to eliminate this cancer. They have an excellent safety profile and are known for their strong efficacy. Herd protection ensures that HPV-related lesions will decline in vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Furthermore, it is critical to stress that immunization may not be a substitute for screening. In actuality, routine cervical cancer screenings should be performed on both vaccinated and non-vaccinated women. Additionally, educational initiatives need to be strengthened.

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Last reviewed at:
19 Dec 2022  -  6 min read




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