Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection is a sexually transmitted infection seen among sexually active women.
About 75% of all sexually active women have chances of getting HPV infection at some point in their life.
Approximately twenty million people are currently with HPV infection.
Human Papillomavirus And Cervical Cancer
The HPV infection in women is associated with the development of cervical cancer, the second leading cause of female cancer mortality.
HPV viruses are a group of more than 100 strains, of these thirty types of HPV have been identified as sexually transmitted. Only ten types of the thirty sexually transmitted strains of HPV lead to cervical cancer.
The most common HPV viruses that increase the risk of developing two types of cervical cancer (squamous cell cancer and adenocarcinoma) are 16, 18, 30 and 33 and these viruses are known as high-risk oncogenic or carcinogenic HPVs.
It is found that women in whom the human papillomavirus survives for years have high chances of developing cervical cancer than in those women where the HPV infection quickly clears.
Most women’s bodies are able to fight against HPV infection. In other words, when a woman is infected with HPV, her immune system tries to prevent the virus from doing any harm and eradicates the HPV infection quickly.
But in some women, the virus persists for longer period and converts some cells on the surface of the cervix into tumor cells. However, it happens very slowly.
Normally, in the human body, cell division takes place largely by two proteins (Rb and p53).
The HPV virus when persists for years, the genes of HPV (E6 and E7) produces proteins that attaches themselves to the proteins (Rb and p53) and blocks the process of cell division. Thus, the infected cells replicate abundantly without any control.
Over time these cells develop changes in their genetic structure permanently, which cannot be repaired. When this kind of change occurs, some cells may eventually develop into cancer cells.
In early stages, viral-infected cells on the surface of the cervix only exhibit signs of HPV infection. However, with the continued existence of virus, the cells become precancerous and eventually change the normal cells on the surface of the cervix and develop into invasive cervical cancer.
Reduce Your Risk Of Developing HPV Infection In To Cervical Cancer
As sexually active women with HPV infection have high chances of developing cervical cancer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a vaccine for HPV infection.
This vaccine is particularly for females (9-26 years), to protect against the HPV viruses that cause cervical cancer and also to prevent the development of cervical cancer if HPV infection is present. The HPV vaccine should be taken as a series of 3 injections over a six month period.
As prevention of HPV infection is difficult for those women who already infected, a simple test known as Pap test is recommended to determine the early and easily treatable precancerous lesions and also to treat the lesions before it progresses to cervical cancer.
It is to be noted that the Pap test cannot determine abnormal cells until cancer develops. So, when the risk of cervical cancer is high, it is recommended to have HPV test along with the Pap test.