What types of cancers and illnesses are caused by HPV?
HPV is responsible for:
- almost all cervical cancers
- about 90 per cent of genital warts
- 90 per cent of anal cancers
- 78 per cent of vaginal cancers
- 25 per cent of vulvar cancers
- 50 per cent of penile cancers
- 60 per cent of oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils).
A persistent HPV infection (an HPV infection that stays for a long time that your body does not clear) can cause changes to the cells in affected areas. These cell changes, often over many years, may develop into cancer.
HPV and cervical cancer
Cervical cancer is cancer of the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus or womb. Persistent HPV infection of certain types of HPV can cause abnormal cells to develop in the cervix. Over time, if not detected and treated, these cell changes can develop into cervical cancer.
Learn more about cervical cancer
Cervical Screening Tests
Regular cervical screening, combined with HPV vaccination, are the best ways to reduce your risk of cervical cancer.
The Cervical Screening Test looks for the presence of HPV and can identify people who are at risk of developing cervical cancer.
You need to have a Cervical Screening Test every five years if you are:
- a woman or person with a cervix
- aged between 25 and 74 years, and
- have ever been sexually active with anyone of any gender.
Even if you’re vaccinated against HPV, it’s important to have a Cervical Screening Test every five years. This is because the HPV vaccine doesn’t protect against all the HPV types that cause cervical cancer.
Learn more about cervical screening
Australia is set to be one of the first places in the world to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem, potentially as early as 2030. Learn more about the elimination of cervical cancer.
Other HPV-related cancers
Some types of HPV can also cause cancers of the anus, vagina, vulva, penis and the oropharynx/throat. While these cancers are uncommon, and most people who get HPV will not develop these cancers, vaccination at the recommended age is your best protection.
The following factors may make it more likely for these HPV-related cancers to develop:
- Persistent infection with HPV.
- Smoking: this can increase the likelihood that HPV will persist in the body.
- Age: as we get older, we are at increased risk of HPV-related cancers.
- Weakened immune systems: people who are immunocompromised (for example, people with HIV or AIDS, organ transplant recipients, or people who are taking certain medications that suppress the immune system) are at an increased risk of HPV infection.