• Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses that are extremely common worldwide.
• There are more than 100 types of HPV, of which at least 14 are cancer-causing (also known as high risk type).
• HPV is mainly transmitted through sexual contact and most people are infected with HPV shortly after the onset of sexual activity.
• Cervical cancer is caused by sexually acquired infection with certain types of HPV.
• Two HPV types (16 and 18) cause 70% of cervical cancers and precancerous cervical lesions.
• There is also evidence linking HPV with cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis and oropharynx.
• Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women living in less developed regions with an estimated 570 000 new cases (1) in 2018 (84% of the new cases worldwide).
• In 2018, approximately 311 000 women died from cervical cancer; more than 85% of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.
• Comprehensive cervical cancer control includes primary prevention (vaccination against HPV), secondary prevention (screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions), tertiary prevention (diagnosis and treatment of invasive cervical cancer) and palliative care.
• Vaccines that protect against HPV 16 and 18 are recommended by WHO and have been approved for use in many countries.
• Screening and treatment of pre-cancer lesions in women of 30 years and more is a cost-effective way to prevent cervical cancer.
• Clinical trials and post-marketing surveillance have shown that HPV vaccines are very safe and very effective in preventing infections with HPV infections.
• Cervical cancer can be cured if diagnosed at an early stage.
What is HPV?