Sex Advice

Dear Dr. Locker: How common is HPV? How many people have HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)? Does HPV always cause cervial cancer?

Answer from Dr. Locker

HPV is so common that according to the American Social Health Organization, it is estimated that at least 75% of sexually active Americans will contract HPV at some point in their lives. (Many people never even know that they have it, because they may not have any symptoms -- but they can still pass it to others.)

Approximately 1 million people in the US are diagnosed with new cases of HPV each year. While some strains of HPV can cause cancer, most do not. In 2008, 11,070 women were diagnosed with new cases of cervical cancer (from HPV), according to the National Cancer Institute. In men, it is possible that if the strain of HPV was one that could lead to cancer, then the man could contract penile or anal cancer; however, this is more rare. According to the National Cancer Institute in 2008, about 1,250 men in the US were diagnosed with cancer of the penis, and 2,020 men were diagnosed with cancer of the anus. (Both penile and anal cancer are more often diagnosed in gay or bisexual men). Much more likely for men, the problems associated with contracting HPV are the discomfort and inconvenience of dealing with having genital warts removed by a doctor, and the risk of transmitting the virus to a partner.

For more info: *What are Genital Warts? How are genital warts related to HPV (human papillomavirus)?

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