Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 50% of all sexually active people get HPV at some point in their lives. There are at least 40 types of HPV that can cause genital warts or cancer in men and women. HPV infection can also cause warts in the throat and restrict breathing. This type of infection is called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP). Currently, there are about 20 million Americans infected with HPV. Each year, about 6 million more people will become infected. About 90% of these infections do not cause warts or cancer and go away on their own. Some types of HPV are more serious. These can cause warts or many types of cancer. These cancers can affect the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and head and neck (tongue, tonsils, and throat).
Approximately 70% of cervical cancers result from infection with HPV types 16 and 18.
HPV infection is most common in teens and people in their early 20s. As many as 64% of female teens have been infected with HPV. About 75% of new infections occur among people aged 15–24 years. HPV infection is usually spread during sexual activity, including skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity and oral sex. Rarely, it can be transmitted from mother to newborn during delivery, resulting in juvenile-onset RRP. Getting a vaccine is the best way to prevent diseases caused by HPV infection. HPV vaccination is recommended for most people aged 9–26 years. The vaccine can be given to children ages 9 years and up. Pregnant women should wait until after delivery to get the vaccine. The vaccine works best in men before age 21 years.
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