Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are a very common family of viruses that infect epithelial tissue. More than 120 HPV types have been identified. Most HPV types infect cutaneous epithelial cells and cause common warts, such as those that occur on the hands and feet. Approximately 40 HPV types can infect mucosal epithelial cells, such as those on the genitals, mouth, and throat. Although most HPV infections are asymptomatic and resolve spontaneously or become undetectable, some HPV infections can persist and lead to cancer.
Persistent infections with high-risk (oncogenic) HPV types can cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers in women; penile cancers in men; and oropharyngeal and anal cancers in both men and women. The most common high-risk types are HPV 16 and 18.
Infection with low-risk (non-oncogenic) HPV types can cause genital warts and rarely laryngeal papillomas. These types can also cause benign or low-grade cervical cell abnormalities. The most common low-risk types are HPV 6 and 11.
About 79 million Americans are infected with genital HPV. Approximately 14 million people become newly infected each year, mostly teens and young adults. Almost every person will acquire an HPV infection at some time in their life.
Every year in the United States, an estimated 19,200 women and 11,600 men are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV infection.
Of women diagnosed with an HPV cancer, cervical cancer is the most common with almost 12,000 women diagnosed annually in the United States; subsequently about 4,400 women die every year from cervical cancer in the country.
Of the men in the United States diagnosed with an HPV cancer, oropharyngeal cancer is the most common. Around 9,100 U.S. men each year are diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer caused by HPV infection. There is no screening test for oropharyngeal cancers, making prevention of infection a priority.