As a mother of four daughters aged from nine to 23 you’d think I’d know a lot about HPV.
As a woman who has had numerous sexual partners you’d think I’d know a lot about HPV.
As a woman whose grandmother was diagnosed with HPV related cervical cancer at 35 you’d think I’d know a lot about HPV.
But like many women and men, I don’t know very much at all about the Human Papilloma Virus.
After speaking with Professor Suzanne Garland – Lead Researcher for the Centre for Women’s Infectious Diseases Royal Women’s Hospital, Reproductive & Neonatal Infectious Diseases, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne and Vice President of the International Papillomavirus Society, I discovered there sure is a lot to know.
What is HPV and how is it actually transmitted?
For a start, there isn’t just one strain of HPV – over 100 have been identified to date.
"The HPV that infects humans are divided into those that have an affinity for infecting skin like hands and feet and causing skin warts, whilst those that have an affinity with the genitals can cause genital warts and even cancers," says Professor Garland.
"Some HPV strains are considered low risk for cancer. The two strains called HPV-6 and HPV-11 are the predominant cause of genital warts - around 90 percent1 - whereas HPV-16 and HPV-18 are considered high-risk strains for causing cancer and together they cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers in the world."2
For women, nearly all cervical cancer is caused by HPV - 99 percent to be precise, according to the WHO. But that's not the only cancer caused by HPV - men and women infected with HPV are at risk of developing cancers in other genital areas too.