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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.

Examples of this include your:

  • cervix
  • anus
  • mouth and throat

There are more than 100 types of HPV. Around 30 types of HPV infection can affect the genital area.

Genital HPV infections are common and highly contagious. They are spread during sexual intercourse and skin-to-skin contact of the genital areas.

What can HPV infection do?

Infection with some types of genital HPV can cause:

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

Girls aged 12-13 are offered a vaccination against HPV to help protect them against types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. Women aged 25-64 are offered cervical screening to check for abnormal cells in the cervix.

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

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 15/12/2015

Next review due: 15/12/2017