For years, human papillomavirus (HPV) has been clearly linked to cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine could help decrease cervical cancer cases dramatically if administered to adolescents and young adults prior to infection. And because HPV also causes some cases of head and neck cancer, there’s even more reason to be proactive about prevention, experts say.
When it comes to cancer, many cases are mysteries. It’s very difficult—even impossible—to pinpoint what leads to a malignancy. Yet there are a few cancers that clearly are linked to specific causes. Smoking contributes to lung cancer, sun damage contributes to skin cancer, and—in a stunning 99 percent of cases—human papillomavirus (HPV) is present in cervical cancer cases.
One of the mainstays of preventive health for women is the ‘well-woman exam,’ the annual check-up that includes a pelvic and breast exam. However, since the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists revised screening guidelines for pap smears, calling for them as long as five years apart under certain circumstances, some women are under the impression that they have no reason to see the doctor for their annual exam. Not so.
The ABCs of cervical health boil down to three other letters: HPV. There are more than 150 types of human papillomavirus (HPV), which are classified as one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world. Most HPVs are cleared by the immune system before they become problematic, but some strains are known to cause genital warts and cancers.
There are more than 100 types of human papillomavirus (HPV), and most people—about 80 percent of the population—will be infected at some point in their life. In most cases, the virus is virtually harmless and is either cleared from the body or suppressed by the immune system. However, about 30 strains of HPV can cause genital warts and cancers in both men and women.
One old legend has it that you should dig up an onion under the full moon, cut it in half, and tie it to your foot at night to rid yourself of plantar warts, which develop on the soles of the feet. So far, there’s no evidence that technique works, although it’s one of several old-fashioned and somewhat amusing folk remedies.
When Edward Jenner discovered that smallpox could be prevented through a new technique he introduced in 1798, known as vaccination, he began a medical revolution. Vaccines are responsible for eradicating and controlling some of the most deadly diseases of our time. And vaccinated children are growing up without the imminent threat of polio, hepatitis B, chicken pox, measles and rubella, to name just a few.