Human Papillomavirus: Screening, Testing, and Prevention
Am Fam Physician. 2021 Aug ;104(2):152-159.
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With more than 200 types identified, human papillomavirus (HPV) commonly causes infections of the skin and mucosa. HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Although most HPV infections are transient and subclinical, some lead to clinical manifestations ranging from benign papillomas or warts to intraepithelial lesions. In some patients, persistent infection with high-risk mucosal types, especially HPV-16 and HPV-18, causes anal, cervical, oropharyngeal, penile, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. Most HPV-related cancers are believed to be caused by sexual spread of the virus. A history of multiple sex partners; initiation of sexual activity at an early age; not using barrier protection; other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV; an immunocompromised state; alcohol use; and smoking have been identified as risk factors for persistent HPV infections. Screening for HPV infection is effective in identifying precancerous lesions and allows for interventions that can prevent the development of cancer. Use of condoms and dental dams may decrease spread of the virus. Vaccination is the primary method of prevention. The nonavalent HPV vaccine is effective in preventing the development of high-grade precancerous cervical lesions in noninfected patients. Vaccination is ideally administered at 11 or 12 years of age, irrespective of the patient's sex. In general, a two-dose series is recommended if administered before 15 years of age; however, individuals who are immunocompromised require three doses.
There are more than 200 types of human papillomavirus (HPV), a DNA virus that infects cutaneous and mucosal epithelial cells. HPV is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact and has tropisms for cutaneous or mucosal epithelial cells.1 A small subset of HPV types can cause cutaneous warts.2 The approximately 40 types that infect mucosal surfaces are typically spread through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, or oral sex, and can be divided into low-risk and high-risk types based on their associated cancer risk. Low-risk types cause warts, whereas the 15 high-risk types cause cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and squamous cell carcinomas of the anogenital tract and oropharyngeal mucosa.3,4 Vertical or horizontal spread of HPV can occur during the perinatal period and is associated with oral infections and respiratory papillomatosis.5,6 Concomitant cervical and anal infections have been demonstrated in women without a history of anal intercourse and may be a result of autoinoculation.7
WHAT'S NEW ON THIS TOPIC
Vaccination has been demonstrated to reduce the prevalence of vaccine-type HPV in females, anogenital warts, and precancerous cervical lesions.
According to a 2018 Cochrane review, vaccinating women, with or without HPV exposure, between 15 and 26 years of age decreases the risk of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 2 and 3, with a number needed to treat of 39.
On June 12, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved adding the prevention of head and neck cancers caused by HPV as an indication for the nonavalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9).
HPV = human papillomavirus.
SORT: KEY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR PRACTICE
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