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Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Learn about HPV, how it can lead to cancer, and how it spreads.

About HPV

HPV (human papillomavirus) is a virus. It is the most common sexually transmitted infection and can cause genital warts. An HPV infection will often go away on its own. Some people get a long-term infection. This can lead to cancer of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, or throat. HPV causes almost all cervical cancers.

Learn more about HPV and cervical cancer.

Who is most at risk?

HPV is very common. Anyone can get it, even if you have had only 1 sexual partner. Without getting immunized, most people who are sexually active will get an HPV infection at some time.

The risk of getting HPV is highest soon after becoming sexually active.

How it spreads

HPV spreads by sexual contact or skin-to-skin contact in the genital area. If you are pregnant and have HPV, you can spread it to your baby during vaginal childbirth.

HPV can be spread even if you have no symptoms or you can’t see any warts.

Current as of: July 17, 2023
Author: Provincial Immunization Program, Alberta Health Services
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