Human papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV and cervical cancer – a personal story

HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus. Most women and men will be infected at some point in their lives, and the peak time for acquiring infection is shortly after becoming sexually active. Most infections cause no symptoms and clear without intervention within 2 years, but certain types of HPV can lead to cancer or genital warts.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women globally, and virtually all cervical cancer cases (99%) are linked to genital infection with HPV. The HPV virus is also linked to other types of anogenital cancer, head and neck cancers, and genital warts in both men and women.

Vaccination

Vaccines against HPV are safe, effective and routinely provided in many countries throughout the world, including in 33 countries in the WHO European Region.

Two HPV vaccines currently available are highly effective in preventing infection with virus types 16 and 18, which are responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancer cases globally. One of these vaccines also protects against HPV types 6 and 11, which cause 90% of genital warts. A third, 9-valent, vaccine protects against 7 HPV types that together cause 90% of cervical cancer cases and the 2 that cause genital warts.

HPV vaccination is recommended in early adolescence, aged 9–14 years. Vaccination of girls is recommended as a priority, as part of comprehensive efforts to prevent and control cervical cancer.