What is HPV?

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the name for a group of viruses that affect your skin and the moist membranes lining your body, for example, in your cervix, anus, mouth and throat.

HPV is a common and highly contagious infection, with over three quarters of sexually active women acquiring it at some time in their lives.

There are more than 100 types of HPV. Around 40 types of HPV infection can affect the genital area.

What can HPV infection do?

Infection with some types of HPV can cause:

  • abnormal tissue growth and other changes to cells within your cervix, which can lead to cervical cancer
  • genital warts, which is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the UK

Other types of HPV infection can cause minor problems, such as common skin warts and verrucas.

Read the answers to more questions about sexual health.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 15/12/2013

Next review due: 14/12/2015