HPV-related cancer prevention and treatment


Human papilloma virus (HPV) was discovered in cervical cancer in 1983, and by 1999, was proven to cause nearly all cervical cancer. HPV also causes genital warts. 45% of all women in the US between the ages of 20 and 24 are infected with HPV. Two vaccines that prevent HPV infection are in use today, and are both safe and effective at preventing cervical cancer. (One, Gardasil, is also safe and effective at preventing genital warts.) Testing for HPV is an effective way to prevent cervical cancer in women over 30.

HPV causes nearly all cervical cancer

In 1983, Harald zur Hausen published the paper "A papillomavirus DNA from a cervical carcinoma and its prevalence in cancer biopsy samples from different geographic regions" in which he described a new virus, HPV 16, which was present in 11 of 18 german cervical cancer samples.

Just 16 years later, the paper "Human papillomavirus is a necessary cause of invasive cervical cancer worldwide" established that HPV is present in nearly all cervical cancer.

Those papers, and the accumulated understanding we have today of how HPV works, establish beyond a reasonable doubt that HPV causes nearly all cervical cancer today. As a result, Harald zur Hausen won the 2008 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery.

(See also timelines of the discovery of the cause and prevention of cervical cancer and genital warts.)

It is estimated that 26% of American women and 20% of American men are infected with HPV. About 7% of Americans have oral HPV infections.

The World Health Organization estimates that HPV causes 275,000 cervical cancer deaths per year worldwide.


"Human Papillomavirus and Related Diseases From Bench to Bedside - A Diagnostic and Preventive Perspective" is an open access book with a wealth of information about HPV, published in April 2013.
Copyright 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 Dan Kegel
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