What is human papillomavirus (HPV)?

Human papillomavirus, or "HPV," is a virus that can cause skin warts, genital warts, and some forms of cancer.

There are many types of HPV. Different types can cause different health problems. This article is about the types of HPV that can be spread through sex.

People can get infected with HPV if their mouth or genitals touch the genitals of someone who is infected. This mainly happens through oral, vaginal, or anal sex. But HPV can also be spread through close genital-to-genital contact, even without having sex.

People who have had a lot of sex partners have a higher chance of getting an HPV infection. Many people with HPV do not know that they have the infection. So it is easy to spread to partners without realizing it.

Some types of HPV cause genital warts. But many people do not have any symptoms when they get infected with HPV. And often, the infection will get better on its own. But in some people, the infection doesn't go away. If this happens, it can lead to problems.

People with a long-lasting HPV infection have a higher chance of getting other health problems. Different types of HPV can cause different problems, some of which can be serious. For example:

An HPV infection in the genitals can cause cancer of the cervix, vaginal cancer, and/or penial cancer. Other types of HPV can cause genital warts in women and men.

An HPV infection around the anus can cause cancer of the anus (anal cancer) in women and men.

An HPV infection in the mouth and throat can cause cancer of the mouth and throat in women and men.

These problems usually happen many years after a person is first infected.

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