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Know the Different HPV Types and How They Can Affect Your Health

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Papilloma virus 3d  illustration

Story at-a-glance -

  • The human papillomavirus can refer to any member of a group of over 200 types of virus
  • The most dangerous of these high-risk types are 16 and 18, as they account for almost all HPV-caused cancers

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is named as such because it can cause warts, or “papillomas,” which are noncancerous tumor growths.1

However, keep in mind that this is not just one specific type of virus. Rather, the human papillomavirus can refer to any member of a group of over 200 types of the virus.2 (Often you will see sources saying there are only 100 or 150 types, but don’t be confused; even though those numbers are technically correct, the actual number is over 200.)3

The virus strains are differentiated by being given a particular number, which corresponds to their order of discovery.4 This number is known as "HPV serotype" (or simply “type”).5 These viruses are typically transmitted via direct skin-to-skin contact, or through sexual intercourse, whether vaginal, anal or oral.

They enter the body through a break or crack in the skin. Sometimes an infected mother can pass HPV to her baby during birth, and in rare instances cause an HPV-related respiratory infection called recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP). This disease is caused by HPVs 6 and 11, and can cause benign tumors in the breathing passages and throat.6,7

Mucosal Versus Cutaneous HPV Types

Most HPV types usually do not cause any problems. These are known as “cutaneous,” as they can cause warts to appear on the skin, including the arms, chest, hands and feet.8 These are common warts and are not the genital type.9

The other HPV types are known as “mucosal,” as they typically prefer the moist, squamous cells found in the mucous membranes of the body. These are the moist surface layers lining the cavities and organs of the body that are accessible from outside the body.

Examples of places that have these mucous membranes are the vagina, mouth and anus. Mucosal HPV types are also referred to as genital or anogenital, as they usually infect the genitals of a person. They don’t grow on the nonmucosal skin or on other body parts.10

Low-Risk Versus High-Risk HPV Types

While most HPVs generally do not cause any problems, there are HPV types that can actually become cancerous — these are the high-risk types, which is one of the main categories of HPV types.11 HPV infections in the genital region are generally categorized into two:12

Low-risk HPV — These are dubbed as such because they pose a fairly low, or no risk of cervical cancer. However, they may cause physical effects on the body, such as minor cell changes on the cervix and/or the appearance of genital warts. There are about 12 types of low-risk HPV, namely:

  • 6
  • 11
  • 40
  • 42
  • 43
  • 44
  • 53
  • 54
  • 61
  • 72
  • 73
  • 81

The most common low-risk types are 6 and 11. They are said to cause 90% of genital warts.

High-risk HPV — High-risk types are those that are believed to lead to abnormal cells or “dysplasia” forming on the cervix, anus or penis. If not removed or treated, the abnormal cell changes may lead to cervical cancer. There are 13 types of high-risk HPVs, which are:

  • 16
  • 18
  • 31
  • 33
  • 35
  • 39
  • 45
  • 51
  • 52
  • 56
  • 58
  • 59
  • 68

While most high-risk HPV infections do not show any symptoms and go away within one or two years without causing any complications, there are some that can persist for years, leading to abnormal cell changes.13 The most dangerous of these high-risk types are 16 and 18, as they account for about 70% all HPV-caused cancers.14,15,16  

One study by the American National Cancer Institute found that 10% of women with HPV 16 or 18 went on to develop advanced, precancerous cervical disease in just a matter of three years. In 20% of the women, this complication developed after 10 years.17


HPV: Introduction

What Is HPV?

Oral HPV

How Is HPV Transmitted?

HPV Vaccine

HPV in Men

HPV in Women

HPV Types

HPV Causes

HPV Symptoms

HPV Warts

HPV Treatment

HPV Test

How to Get Rid of HPV

Living with HPV

Does HPV Go Away?

How Do You Get HPV?

Is HPV Curable?

Is HPV Contagious?

How Long Does HPV Last?


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HPV Causes

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