Papillomavirus: Is it still dangerous?


Is papillomavirus still responsible for cancer? How to protect against HPV? Who is concerned ? Answers.

Papillomavirus: what are we talking about exactly?

Behind the famous “papillomavirus” is actually hiding a whole family of viruses: Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) or “human papillomavirus” (HPV) in French. There are no less than 400 different HPVs: among them, 40 can affect human health and 12 have an “oncogenic potential” – which means that they can be responsible for cancer.

How to get papillomavirus? Papillomavirus can infect skin cells as well as genital, anal and oral mucosa cells.

The transmission is mainly sexual: the HPV can be transmitted through a penetration, a kiss, a simple caress or an oral sex act (oral sex, cunnilingus … ). It should be noted that HPV can also pass from one individual to another via a shared towel!

To know. The World Health Organization (WHO) adds that “ the period of critical contamination for both women and men is at the very beginning of sexual activity “.

Papillomavirus: it’s serious, doctor?

To know. HPV viruses are very common. It is estimated that 25% to 50% of women under 25 years and 5% to 15% of women over 35 are carriers of the virus in France.

An HPV virus infection can cause several health concerns, which are more or less serious:

  • Genital warts. It is the most frequent manifestation of HPV viruses known as “low carcinogenic risk”,
  • A cancer of the cervix. Every year, 23,000 French women develop cancer of the cervix linked to an HPV virus.
  • ENT cancer. Larynx, pharynx, nasopharynx … Every year, 11,600 men develop ENT cancer linked to an HPV virus,
  • Respiratory papillomatosis This disease is the development of tumors in the airways connecting the nose and mouth to the lungs.
  • An anal cancer. Papillomaviruses are responsible each year for 1600 new cases in men and 2800 cases in women,
  • Cancer of the vulva and / or vagina,
  • Penile cancer.

A study by Inserm (October 2014) estimates that there is also a link between papillomavirus infection and an autoimmune disease: mucosal erosive lichen planus (MMPL).

To know. An HPV infection is often asymptomatic – which means that the virus is present in the body without causing specific manifestations.

Papillomavirus: how to protect yourself?

To know. According to WHO, about 90% of HPV infections disappear by themselves about 2 years after infection.

First way to protect against papillomavirus: vaccination. It is 100% covered by Social Security for girls aged 11 to 19 and for homosexual men up to the age of 26. It should be noted that anti-HPV vaccinations are considered ” extremely safe “by the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS).

It is recommended to be tested regularly (at his doctor’s gynecologist, via cervical smear) to identify early the presence of HPV: every 3 years minimum!

If the condom does not protect 100% against HPV, it remains a relatively effective bulwark and recommended by the World Health Organization.


Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections – Pr. Christian Chidiac (2014)

HIV Info Service

World Health Organization (WHO)

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