Cancers Associated with Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Cervical cancer is the most common HPV-associated cancer. Almost all cervical cancer is caused by HPV. Some cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and some cancers of the oropharynx (back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils) are also HPV-associated. Research is still being done to understand how and to what extent HPV causes these cancers. The following diagram shows the oral cavity and oropharynx.
In general, HPV is thought to be responsible for about 90% of anal cancers, 65% of vaginal cancers, 50% of vulvar and 35% of penile cancers. Cancers of the head and neck are mostly caused by tobacco and alcohol, but recent studies show that about 60% of cancers of the oropharynx may be linked to HPV.
Most of the time, HPV goes away by itself within two years and does not cause health problems. It is thought that the immune system fights off HPV naturally. It is only when HPV stays in the body for many years that it can cause these cancers. It is not known why HPV goes away in most, but not all cases.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
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