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The Link Between HPV and Cancer

Mother and son smiling and playing outside. HPV vaccine is cancer prevention. CDC logo.

Cancer often takes years, even decades, to develop after a person gets HPV. The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types of HPV that can cause cancers.

There is no way to know which people who have HPV will develop cancer or other health problems. People with weak immune systems (including individuals with HIV/AIDS) may be less able to fight off HPV and more likely to develop health problems from it.

HPV cancers include cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. HPV infection can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer).

HPV cancer usually does not have symptoms until it is quite advanced, very serious and hard to treat. For this reason, it is important for women to get regular screening for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer screening can find early signs of disease so that problems can be treated early, before they ever turn into cancer.

Because there is not screening for the other cancers caused by HPV, it is very important to prevent infection with HPV vaccination.

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