Common Sexually Transmitted Disease Major Cause of Cervical Cancer

Armen Hareyan's picture

Cervical cancer and HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States and worldwide and, it's a major cause of cervical cancer.

But, according to the May issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource, most women with HPV don't know they carry the virus.


HPV includes hundreds of virus types, 30 to 40 of which can infect the genital area. Genital HPV can be low risk or high risk. The low-risk types can cause genital warts and mild Pap test abnormalities. High-risk types can cause cell changes that lead to cervical cancer.

HPV is especially common among younger women. An estimated 28 percent to 46 percent of American women under age 25 carry the virus. If you're older than 30, your doctor may recommend an HPV test along with your Pap test. Like the Pap test, an HPV test involves collecting cells from the cervix with a brush or swab. The aim is to detect high-risk types of HPV that may lead to cervical cancer.

The good news is that most HPV infections don't progress to cancer. If abnormal cells develop, routine Pap tests usually can detect them at an early stage so they can be treated. Regular Pap tests are important because women with early cervical cancer generally don't have any symptoms.

Most women should have Pap tests beginning at age 21 or three years after they become sexually active. Your doctor will recommend rechecks based on your age and Pap test results.