About HPV and cancer
According to Dr. Nichols( Canadian Cancer Society), HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. “The incidence of throat cancers has increased dramatically in recent years due in large part to widespread infection with HPV.The increase is thought to be because of changes in sexual practices that began in the 1960s.”
These cancers typically take more than 20 years to develop. Some strains of the HPV virus cause cervical cancer as well as ano-genital cancers. More recently, HPV infections have been found to cause cancers of the oropharynx.
It is estimated that 75% of sexually-active Canadians will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime. The body’s immune system usually gets rid of an HPV infection on its own. Most HPV infections (about 70%) go away without any treatment within 1–2 years. Persistent infection with high-risk HPV types over many years can cause precancerous changes and cancer.
HPV infection is associated with about:
- 25%–35% of oropharyngeal cancers
- 40% of vaginal and vulvar cancers
- 40%–50% of penile cancers
- 80%–90% of anal cancers
Dr Nichols says that throat cancer patients whose disease was caused by an HPV infection tend to be diagnosed in their 40s and 50s, as opposed to patients whose throat cancer was caused by smoking and alcohol (these patients tend to be diagnosed at 60 or older).
A vaccine is available in Canada to prevent HPV infection. It protects against the types of HPV that cause 70% of HPV-related cancers. For more information, visit cancer.ca