Does HPV really cause cervical cancer?
Nearly all cervical cancers are caused because of a high-risk HPV infection, of which there are nearly a dozen strains. Two distinct strains of HPV (types 16 and 18) are responsible for nearly 70% of all cervical cancer diagnoses.
What is HPV?
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection and stands for human papilloma virus. While there are 200 strains in this family of viruses, only some are considered high-risk and can lead to cancers like cervical, anal, penile, vaginal, and those of the tongue, tonsils, and soft palate of the mouth. Other strains can go undetected in the body and clear up within two years without symptoms. Still others can lead to genital warts or benign tumors in airways like the nose and throat.
HPV is currently the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States and can be spread through anal, oral, and vaginal sex. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 14 million new infections occur each year and that approximately 85% of sexually active people in the country will be infected with HPV in their lifetime; nearly half of these will be with a high-risk strand that can lead to cancer.
Reduce Your Risks of HPV Infection:
- For people who are not yet sexually active, an HPV vaccine was developed and helps to prevent transmission and infection of the virus.
- For people who are sexually active, using proper protection during all types of sexual activity can reduce the chance of acquiring HPV.
- Women can be tested for HPV through certain DNA tests and Pap tests performed by gynecologists. Currently, there are no FDA-approved ways to test for HPV in men.
How does HPV lead to cervical cancer?
HPV infects cells that cover various surfaces of the body, including the skin, the throat, the genital tract, and the anus. The virus causes abnormal growth of the cells, which over time can build up on the lining of the cervix and lead to cancer.
People with high-risk strains of HPV are at additional danger of developing cervical cancer if they also smoke, give birth to many (3 or more) children, experience chronic inflammation, or have a family history.
- weakened immune systems are also more likely to develop cervical cancer than other women with high-risk HPV infections. In some cases, the immune system, which is imperative to fighting cancer cells, is not fully functioning because of HIV or because of suppressive drugs following organ transplants or for an autoimmune disease.
- chlamydia infection may also develop cervical cancer more quickly. While chlamydia is a bacterial infection, it affects cervical mucus and is also sexually transmitted.
- diets low in fruits and vegetables or who are overweight are at higher risk of HPV leading to cancer.
- long-term use of oral contraceptives; the longer women take birth control pills the greater the risk. However, the risk returns to normal once oral contraceptive use is discontinued.
If you are interested in learning more about cervical cancer and treatment options at Causenta, schedule a free 30-minute consultation.
About the Author
Dr. Thomas is the founder and CEO of Causenta Wellness, and the Causenta Cancer Treatment Center in Arizona. From working with NFL, MLB, MMA, World Class athletes and even the White House, his reputation of personalized medicine and cutting-edge technologies has put him on the map, caring for some of the most powerful people in the world, making him one of the most sought-after healthcare professionals of all time.