Millions of people have been warned about a silent killer sexually transmitted disease that can cause genital warts and cancer.
According to the WHO, there are some 600 million cases of human papillomavirus making it the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease on the planet.
HPV in itself is harmless and most sexually active people on the planet are likely to catch it at some point in their lives.
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Most commonly transmitted via vaginal or anal sex, close skin-to-skin contact during sex can also have the same impact.
Anal, cervical, oral and penile cancers can all be caused by it, with causation behind it as a route to death alarmingly prevalent.
The risk of HPV as a predecessor to cancer is hard to ignore, with the WHO writing: “At least 13 of more than 100 known HPV genotypes can cause cancer of the cervix and are associated with other anogenital cancers and cancers of the head and neck.
“The two most common "high-risk" genotypes (HPV 16 and 18) cause approximately 70% of all cervical cancers.
“HPV was estimated to cause almost half a million cases and 250,000 deaths from cervical cancer in 2002, of which about 80% occurred in developing countries.”
Despite its danger, awareness about it remains low with the American Association for Cancer Research noting that only around two-thirds of people are thought to know about it.
A study running until 2020, which started in 2014 and included 2,000 adults, found that only around 70.2% knew HPV was linked with cervical cancer, while just 27.9% knew about the link with anal cancer – and this number had fallen to 27.4% by the time the study finished in 2020.
That year, it also found that only 29.5% of people knew it was linked to oral cancer and 28.4% to penile cancer.
The body is normally able to shift HPV within two years.
Speaking toSuperdrug online doctor , Dr Hana Patel, a GP and specialist in women’s health explained how the lack of symptoms can often lead to it going unnoticed.
“There is no direct treatment for the HPV virus, as it can lay dormant in the body but there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause,” she said.
“Whilst HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer, women who develop high-risk HPV lesions only have a 5-15% chance of developing cervical cancer, which can take between 8-10 years to develop”.
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