Health awareness

HPV-related cancers: What you need to know

Learn about human papillomavirus, or HPV, and the World Health Organization's effort to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem

April 2, 2021

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Did you know that human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a common virus?

In fact, HPV is so common that 85% of sexually active people in the United States will become infected in their lifetime. In the U.S, between 2003 and 2006, an estimated 79 million people were infected with HPV annually. An estimated 660 million people were infected annually worldwide as of 2007.

HPV can cause certain cancers and diseases in both men and women

For most people, HPV clears by itself. But, for those who do not clear the virus, it can cause certain cancers and diseases later in life. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know who will or will not clear the virus.

In women, HPV can cause cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancer. In women and men, it can also cause genital warts, anal and oropharyngeal cancer (a type of cancer that can affect the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils).

The impact of HPV-related cancers

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~35,000

people in the U.S. are diagnosed with HPV-related cancers each year

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~12,000

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

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~19,000

men and women were diagnosed with HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers every year between 2012-2016

“HPV-related cancers are serious for both men and women. Fortunately, 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., medical director, Merck

The World Health Organization’s movement towards cervical cancer elimination

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 Organization (WHO) launched its Global Strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer as a public health problem, to build momentum for cervical cancer elimination around the world.

Achieving this goal will require collaboration and political support from international and local leaders, the private sector and the public.