Ask the Experts: HPV (Human Papillomavirus): Disease Issues

Results (7)

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women contract the virus at some point in their lives. In the United States, more than 42 million people are infected with the types of HPV known to cause disease, and an estimated 13 million new HPV infections occur every year among people age 15 through 59 years. Approximately half of new infections occur among people age 15 through 24 years. The first HPV infection typically occurs within a few months to years of becoming sexually active.

Last reviewed: March 2, 2024

Most HPV infections are asymptomatic and go away completely on their own within 2 years after infection (usually in the first 6 months) without causing clinical disease. Some infections are persistent and can lead to genital warts, precancerous lesions, or cancer. Infections caused by certain HPV types cause almost all cases of anogenital warts in women and men and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.

It can take years, even decades, for HPV infections to lead to cancer. According to CDC surveillance data from 2016 through 2020, every year in the United States, about 46,711 new cases of cancer (25,689 among women and 21,022 among men) are found in parts of the body where human papillomavirus (HPV) is often found (referred to as HPV-associated cancers). About 79% of these cancers are probably caused by HPV (referred to as HPV-attributable cancers).

Each year, between 2016 and 2020, nearly 12,000 cases of cervical cancer, the most widely known HPV-associated cancer, occurred in the United States. HPV is also associated with vulvar, and vaginal cancer in females, penile cancer in males, and anal and oropharyngeal cancer in both females and males. Between 2016 and 2020, oropharyngeal cancers were the most common HPV-associated cancers, with an average of 20,805 reported cases each year (17,248 among men and 3,557 among women).

See for more information on trends in HPV-associated cancer.

Last reviewed: March 2, 2024

CDC estimated that 36,500 people developed cancers attributable to HPV infections each year between 2015 to 2019. Of these annual cases, about 94% could have been prevented by the 9-valent HPV vaccine, including about 30,100 cases caused by HPV types 16 and 18 and 4,300 cases caused by HPV types 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.

HPV types 6 or 11 cause 90% of anogenital warts (condylomata) and most cases of recurrent respiratory papillomatosis.

For additional details, see

Last reviewed: March 2, 2024

There is no treatment for infection with the HPV virus itself. Only HPV-associated lesions including genital warts, recurrent respiratory papillomatosis, precancers, and cancers are treated. Recommended treatments vary depending on the diagnosis, size, and location of the lesion. Local treatment of lesions might not eradicate all HPV-containing cells fully. It is unclear whether treating the lesion reduces the risk that the infected person could transmit the HPV infection to others.

Last reviewed: March 2, 2024

Occupational infection with HPV is possible. Some HPV-associated conditions (including anogenital and oral warts, anogenital intraepithelial neoplasia, and recurrent respiratory papillomatosis) are treated with laser or electrosurgical procedures that could produce airborne particles. These procedures should be performed in an appropriately ventilated room using standard precautions and local exhaust ventilation. Workers in HPV research laboratories who handle wild-type viruses or “quasi virions” might be at risk of acquiring HPV from occupational exposures. In the laboratory setting, proper infection control should be instituted, including, at minimum, biosafety level 2. Whether HPV vaccination would be of benefit in these settings is unclear because no data exist on transmission risk or vaccine efficacy in this situation.

Last reviewed: March 2, 2024

Nonsexual HPV transmission is theoretically possible but has not been definitively demonstrated. This is mainly because HPV can’t be cultured, and DNA detection from the environment is difficult and likely prone to false negative results.

Last reviewed: March 2, 2024
  • If a person is infected with an HPV strain that does not clear (that is, the person becomes persistently infected) the person cannot be reinfected because they are continuously infected.
  • If a person is infected with an HPV strain that clears, some but not all people will have a lower chance of reinfection with the same strain. Data suggest that females are more likely than males to develop immunity after clearance of natural infection.
  • Prior infection with an HPV strain does not lessen the chance of infection with a different HPV strain.
Last reviewed: March 2, 2024

This page was updated on .