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Do All Strains of HPV Cause Cancer?

No, all strains of HPV do not cause cancer. There is a higher probability of cancer with high-risk HPV strains versus low-risk HPV strains.

High-Risk HPV Strains

There are more than 200 strains of HPV, but not all of them are harmful. Nearly 40 strains of HPV are transmitted sexually; however, not all sexually acquired strains cause cancer. The HPV strains of the highest concern are 16 and 18. These strains account for nearly three-quarters of cancers of the cervix, penis, anus, and throat. Other strains of HPV that are also considered to be high/medium-risk include 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58. Patients with any of these strains must be closely monitored because of the higher risk of developing cancer.

Low-Risk HPV Strains

Some strains of HPV are considered low risk. Strains 6 and 11 rarely cause cancer but are known to be associated with more than 90% of cases of genital warts. Genital warts usually become apparent a few weeks or months after acquiring the virus.

What Symptoms Does HPV Produce?

Most people with HPV do not feel any major symptoms. In many cases, the body’s defense system clears the virus, but in some instances, the virus persists and may cause changes in the cells, which may result in warts or cancers of the cervix or anus.

The best way to prevent HPV-related health problems is to be vaccinated. The Gardasil 9 vaccine available in the U.S. protects against all the high- and low-risk HPV strains.

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