HPV Prevention, Risks, and Complications

Reviewed by: Frank Cockerill, MD. June 2, 2017

Is HPV preventable?

Yes. There are two types of HPV vaccines that prevent the virus in the first place. Both vaccines are safe and FDA-approved for females and males, ages 9–26. Talk to your doctor to find out if and when it makes sense for you (or your son or daughter) to get vaccinated.

Using condoms and practicing safer sex greatly reduces the chances of contracting or transmitting HPV.

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If you're concerned about STD exposure, it's a good idea to get tested.

What are the risks and complications of HPV?

The American Cancer Society reports that there are about 150 types of HPV. Most types are not serious, but there are about 30 types that can put you at risk for health complications, including cancer.

These types of HPV are transmitted through sexual contact and affect the genitals (most commonly with warts). In rare instances, a pregnant woman with genital HPV can pass the virus to her baby during delivery.

Genital warts are considered "low-risk HPV". "High-risk HPV" can result in cancers of the anus, vagina, vulva, and cervix in women. The CDC reports that about 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer every year. In men, high-risk HPV can lead to cancers of the penis and anus. High-risk HPV can also result in throat or tongue cancers, in both men and women who have oral receptive sex.


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