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Why HPV is so common and how to stop it from progressing

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections are common. There are many types of the virus which are harmless and most people will be infected with some form of HPV at some point in their lives. However, persistent infection with some high-risk forms of HPV is strongly linked to cervical cancer and other forms of cancer.

HPV is so common because it is transmitted through any skin to skin sexual contact of the genital area, including vaginal, anal or oral sex, or from sharing sex toys. Additionally, a high proportion of people will not experience any symptoms which also increases the chance of transmission.

Whilst it is not possible to fully protect yourself against HPV, there are things that can help. Firstly, condoms can help protect you against HPV, but as they do not cover all the skin around your genitals, you will not necessarily be fully protected. The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause most cases of genital warts and cervical cancer, as well as some other cancers. It does not protect against all types of HPV.

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Dr Gillian Holdsworth headshot

This post was clinically reviewed by:
Dr Gillian Holdsworth Fettle's Managing Director, Medical Doctor and public health expert.

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