Cervical cancer is not the only type of cancer that can be caused by infection with a high risk type of human papillomavirus (HPV). In fact, 5% of all cancers worldwide are linked to high-risk HPV .
This section covers the following topics:
- The other cancer types linked to high-risk HPV
- HPV transmission and reducing your risk
- Precancerous stages
- Useful links
The other HPV-related cancers that can affect women, men or both women and men are listed below :
Both women and men:
Not all of the above cancers are caused by high-risk HPV. However, the NHS estimates that each year high-risk HPV is linked to the following percentages of these cancers :
Of the other cancers that are linked to HPV, the majority are linked to the high-risk HPV types 16 and 18 . These are the same types of HPV that cause 70% of all cervical cancers. Some scientific studies suggest that if you have had high grade cervical changes/abnormalities (CIN2 or 3) in the past you have a higher chance of developing a different type of HPV-related abnormality or cancer .
HPV is transmitted primarily by skin-to-skin contact, including genital-to-genital contact, and any kind of vaginal, anal or oral sex. HPV affects the skin and mucosa (moist membranes found throughout the body), which makes the genital regions, as well as the mouth and throat, particularly vulnerable to infection. Oral sex is the main way that high-risk HPV infections are spread to the mouth and throat. Anal sex increases the risk of high-risk HPV affecting the mucosa of the anus, but it is not necessary for transmission to this area as HPV can be spread by any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area.
There is no treatment for a high-risk HPV infection and in the majority of people their body’s own immune system will clear the infection. However, in some cases this does not happen. There is very little data on this, so it is still unclear why some people are able to clear the infection, while in others the virus can remain persistent within their body for many years (sometimes decades). If a person’s immune system is not able to clear the infection it can increase the risk of abnormal cells growing and, potentially, cancer developing within the affected area .
While it is not possible to fully protect yourself from HPV if you are or have ever been involved in any kind of sexual contact, there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of getting HPV and developing a persistent infection:
- Practice safe sex through the regular use of condoms: this can help reduce the risk of becoming infected, although it will not completely eradicate the risk as HPV lives on the skin in and around the whole genital area . Genital HPV in men affects the skin of the penis, scrotum, anus and rectum . In women it affects the vulva (area outside the vagina), lining of the vagina, cervix and rectum
- Lead a healthy lifestyle: you are more at risk if you have a weakened immune system
- Stop smoking: smoking is a major risk factor as it can affect your immune systems, making it harder to clear an HPV infection, and because the chemicals found in cigarettes can damage the DNA of your cells contributing to the development of cancer
- HPV vaccination: for younger women who are eligible (those between the ages of 11 and 18), the HPV vaccination helps reduce the risk of developing any cancer linked to HPV types 16 and 18. If you are ineligible for the NHS vaccination programme you can pay to have the vaccine privately. The complete course of the vaccine requires three doses with each dose costing around £150.
For more information on how high-risk HPV is spread and how to help protect yourself, please visit our information pages.
Just like with cervical cancer, vaginal, vulval, anal and penile cancer all go through a precancerous stage. This is when the high-risk HPV has caused abnormalities in the cells, but they have not yet had the chance to develop into cancer. They are known as:
- Vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN)
- Vulval intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN)
- Anal intraepithelial neoplasia (AIN)
- Penile intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN).
In some cases these precancerous abnormal cells will clear up on their own; however, if they do not clear on their own and are left untreated they can go on to develop into cancer.
Since there are no screening programmes for these types of abnormalities, in the way there is with cervical abnormalities, it is more difficult to diagnose them. This means that is it particularly important to be aware of the symptoms. Symptoms you should look out for include persistent inching, pain or bleeding in any of these areas. Please report any symptoms to a health care professional if you are concerned.
For more information on the symptoms of these cancers please see the links below:
For more information and support on other cancers linked to high-risk HVP please see the links below or in our useful links section.
HPV Action (HPVA) is a collaborative partnership of 43 patient and professional organisations that are working to reduce the health burden of HPV. To achieve this, HPVA delivers an advocacy campaign that aims to achieve gender-neutral HPV vaccination.
The HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation
The HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation is dedicated to empowering anal cancer patients and accelerating prevention and treatment methods that eliminate anal cancer and the virus that causes the majority of cases, HPV.
Orchid is the UK’s leading charity working on behalf of anyone affected by or interested in male cancer – prostate, testicular and penile cancer. Orchid exists to save men’s lives from male cancer through a range of support services, education and awareness campaigns and a pioneering research programme.
The Eve Appeal
The Eve Appeal fundraises for ground breaking research focussed on the detection, prediction, treatment and care of gynaecological cancers.
Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK's pages provide easy to read information on both HPV and all of the cancer types it has been linked to.
Macmillan Cancer Support
Macmillan Cancer Support improves the lives of people affected by cancer. They have a lot of information about the HPV virus and the cancers it is linked with.
Mouth Cancer Foundation
The Mouth Cancer Foundation is a professional support organisation solely dedicated to helping people with mouth, throat and other head and neck cancers.
- National Cancer Institute, 2015. HPV and cancer. www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/hpv-fact-sheet. Accessed: 06.07.2016.
- CRUK, 2014. What is the HPV virus? www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancers-in-general/cancer-questions/what-is-the-hpv-virus. Accessed: 06.07.2016.
- NHS; Public Health England, 2014. The human papillomavirus vaccine. The virus, the diseases and the HPV vaccine. www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/345955/8874-HPV-the-Facts-05.pdf. Accessed: 06.07.2016.
- HPV Action, 2015. HPV. www.hpvaction.org/hpv.html. Accessed: 06.07.2016.
- Edgren G et al, 2007. Risk of anogenital cancer after diagnosis of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia: a prospective population-based study. The Lancet 8(4), 311-316. www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lanonc/PIIS1470-2045(07)70043-8.pdf. Accessed: 06.07.2016.
- Winter RL et al., 2003. Genital human papillomavirus infection: incidence and risk factors in a cohort of female university students. American Journal of Epidemiology 157 (3), 218–226.
- Roura E et al, 2014. Smoking as a major risk factor for cervical cancer and pre-cancer: Results from the EPIC cohort. International Journal of Cancer 135, 453-466.
- Winter RL et al., 2003. Genital human papillomavirus infection: incidence and risk factors in a cohort of female university students. American Journal of Epidemiology, 157 (3), 218-226.