Human papillomavirus, also called HPV, is a common STI, with over 3 million animal cases seen by doctors. This viral infection leads to the formation of genital warts, which can affect both men and women.
More disconcertingly, HPV has also been linked to an increased cancer risk. As a leading cause of cervical cancer, HPV is a big issue on the radar of sexually active women – but men can and should protect themselves against infection as well.
What is HPV?
HPV is associated with several types of cancer, including cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus and throat. Interestingly, these cancers are caused by different strains of HPV than those that cause genital warts – and cancer-causing strains may not show any other outward symptoms.
Not every case of HPV results in genital warts or cancer, but exposure to the virus can make these problems more and more likely – making prevention very important.
HPV is spread through sexual contact, including vaginal intercourse, anal sex and oral sex. Symptoms can appear years after infection, making it hard to know when you’ve first become infected. This is one reason that human papillomavirus is the most common STI in the United States. It is a viral infection, meaning it does not respond to antibiotics, but an effective vaccine does exist.
About the HPV Vaccine
The HPV vaccine is recommended for both boys and girls. It is most effective when administered early, between the age of 11 and 12. In addition to timing the vaccine before the usual age of sexual activity, this early response allows the child’s young immune system to respond very actively, creating many more antibodies than it otherwise would.