HPV is a human papillomavirus, i.e. a precancerous condition or cervical cancer, whose role in the process of these ailments is indisputable. We usually get infected with the virus as a result of sexual contact or sharing of items for personal hygiene, e.g. towel, underwear. The HPV virus may be low-oncogenic or highly-oncogenic. How do you get HPV and how easy it is to get infected? Find out.
Varieties of HPV
The HPV virus belongs to the papillomavirus family. To date, more than 100 varieties have been identified that differ in their ability to cause specific diseases. By attacking the basal cells of the epidermis and squamous epithelium, HPV-1 and -2 viruses are the main cause of skin papillomas, while HPV-11 and -16 warts condylomas. However, the most dangerous are types of high oncological risk, leading to cancer of the head, as well as head and neck. The most common are HPV-16 and -18, which are the main cause of cervical cancer.
The incidence of HPV-dependent head and neck cancers shows a wide divergence depending on geolocation. In Europe, these rates range widely from 20 to 62%, while in the US they are higher and range from 64 to 72%. Such large differences are conditioned on the one hand by ethnic and geographical differences, and on the other by the use of different diagnostic methods or the use of other material for research. Regardless of this, there is a global decline in the incidence of head and neck cancers worldwide, which results from a reduction in society’s exposure to traditional cancer risk factors (smoking or drinking alcohol), while the proportion of HPV-dependent cancers increases, especially among patients with younger ages. Estimates suggest that 6.7% of patients are younger than 45 years and 0.4-3.6% are less than 40 years old.
How can you get infected with HPV
There can be many reasons for the appearance of precancerous lesions and cervical cancer, including:
- very early sexual initiation,
- a large number of sexual partners in a short time,
- intercourse with partners who have many partners,
- lack of proper personal hygiene,
- low level of education and not paying attention to taking care of your own health,
- cigarette addiction,
- use of oral hormonal contraception,
- insufficient amount of vitamin A in the body,
- weakening of the immune system.
Infection usually occurs through sexual contact (oral-genital; genital-genital or genital-anal). Of course, this is not the only way that infection can occur. Transmission of the virus can also occur as a result of using the same underwear, towels or other personal hygiene items, especially when lesions are found on the external genitalia. Theoretically, infection can even occur in a public toilet. Also, a mother who does not maintain adequate personal hygiene can spread HPV to the baby’s skin and mucous membranes. There are cases in which one of the regular co-partners is not infected with the virus, or both have other types of HPV.