Infections with human papillomaviruses (HPV) are very common. It is estimated that 70% to 80% of sexually active individuals become infected during their lifetime, and more if their partnerships change frequently. HPV infect the skin or mucous membranes. Most infections pass without symptoms, and usually the virus disappears spontaneously. However, some of the infections can lead to permanent signs of illness.
HPV types with “low risk” can cause genital warts (condylomas). These present in the external genital and anal areas as cauliflower-like growths of varying sizes. Genital warts usually cause no discomfort, rarely itching or burning.
Some “high risk” HPV types can cause certain precancerous lesions and diseases. These include cervical cancer and various other cancers of the anal, genital, and pharyngeal regions. HPV-associated cancers may particularly affect individuals with immunodeficiency.
Protection through HPV vaccination
Vaccination with Gardasil 9® protects against the nine HPV types that most commonly cause genital warts and cancers. The risk of infection with HPV is highest at the beginning of sexual activity. Thus, the HPV vaccination has the most benefit if it is given before the first sexual contacts.