Health awareness

HPV and related cancers: What you need to know

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a leading cause of certain types of cervical cancer and other cancers in men and women

September 12, 2022

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What is human papillomavirus virus (HPV)?

Human papillomavirus virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S. There are many different types of HPV.

For most people, HPV clears on its own. But for the very few who do not clear the virus, it can cause certain cancers and other diseases in both men and women. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know who will or will not clear the virus.

What cancers and diseases can be caused by HPV?

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HPV can cause certain types of:

  • cervical cancers
  • anal cancers
  • vulvar cancers
  • vaginal cancers
  • head and neck cancers
  • genital warts

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2014 and 2018, tens of thousands of people in the U.S. were diagnosed with certain HPV-related cancers each year.

The impact of HPV-related cancers

Between 2014 and 2018, CDC estimates:


of all oropharyngeal cancer (found in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils) may be caused by HPV


new HPV-related cervical cancer cases occur in the U.S. each year

“There are steps people can take to be proactive about their health. Men and women should speak with their health care providers to learn more about the link between HPV and certain cancers and diseases.”

Mel Kohn, M.D., M.P.H., executive director of medical affairs, Merck

The World Health Organization’s movement towards cervical cancer elimination

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cervical cancer is the fourth most frequent cancer in women globally. Important steps have been taken to achieve a world where fewer women are affected by cervical cancer, but more needs to be done.

In 2020, the World Health Assembly adopted the global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem, to build momentum for cervical cancer elimination around the world.

To help achieve this goal, the WHO developed guidance and tools explaining how countries can help to prevent and control cervical cancer, and is working closely with countries to develop and implement programs that are in line with the global strategy.