Can HPV Kill You?
Published May 15, 2020
You’ve probably not realized it but you may have been infected with Human papillomavirus (HPV). According to the CDC, most people will become infected with at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.
Yes, that’s how common HPV is. But contrary to popular belief, most HPV infections don’t show any symptoms or health problems. It usually goes away on its own with the infected person none the wiser.
Statistically, there are about 79 million people infected with HPV in the US at any given time. Of these, about 10,000 women develop cervical cancer from which around 3,700 die. Based on these statistics, the chances of dying from HPV infection are rather slim.
However, this does not mean you have to take it for granted. Some HPV infections can develop into a full-blown cervical cancer which is the second leading cause of death among women around the world. Certain HPV strains can also cause rare cancers such as anal, vaginal, and penile cancers.
HPV – Human Papillomavirus
As its name suggests, HPVs tend to cause warts and benign tumors (papillomas). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is the most common viral infection in the reproductive area.
As you may already know, the virus spreads through skin-to-skin contact. Because of this, it mostly affects people who are sexually active.
Most of the time, the virus lives in the skin without causing any symptoms. So most people with HPV do not realize they have it or that they are spreading it.
The WHO reports that you are at the highest risk of infection shortly after becoming sexually active. HPV infections usually clear up within a few months to two years even without treatment. Some, however, progress into invasive types of cancer. The most common of which is cervical cancer.
In women with healthy immune systems, HPV infections usually take 15 to 20 years before it develops into cervical cancer. But it only takes 5 to 10 years for those with compromised immunity.
Types of HPV
There are basically two types of HPV virus: low-risk and high-risk.
Low-risk strains mostly cause genital warts which rarely progress into cancer. These warts usually look like small bumps but sometimes they resemble more that of a cauliflower. They usually show up weeks or months after intercourse with an infected partner.
Treatments for non-cancerous genital warts usually contain salicylic acid. Some doctors may also prescribe over-the-counter topical creams depending on each individual case.
Meanwhile, about 70% of all cervical cancers are caused by high-risk types like HPV16 and 18. Some high-risk strains like HPV 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58 are also associated with other types of cancer. Several of these strains are also found in tumor tissues.
HPV-related cervical cancer killed more than 300,000 women around the world in 2018 alone. But only 15% of these deaths came from developed countries. That’s because, in these places, there are programs in place that allow girls to be screened and vaccinated as soon as they become sexually active.
This is how important early prevention treatments are when it comes to HPV. Data from the WHO reveals that early screening prevents up to 80% of cervical cancers in developed countries. It’s much easier to treat cancerous warts when they are detected early on.
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the power of knowledge when it comes to whole body donation and she wants to share her experience with the world. She also loves to write about food and art.