Human Papilloma Virus 16 and Cervical Cancer

November 12, 2012

Human Papilloma Virus 16 and Cervical Cancer

Human papilloma virus 16, or HPV 16, is one of the most common sexually transmitted viruses in the United States. It causes genital neoplasias, which may develop into genital cancers.

Epidemiology

With about 20 million known cases and 5.5 million new cases each year, HPV 16 is the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Studies conducted by the CDC found significantly higher incidence of the disease in women, with relative risk being two times greater in them compared to men. The highest prevalence of HPV infection is seen young African American women between the ages of 20 and 29 years. In general, almost 19.1 percent African Americans had HPV 16 infection compared to 12.5 percent of whites. The condition is more common in women over the age of 40 years. Having one lifetime sex partner reduced the risk of the infection by almost 13 percent. Although the absence of HPV antibodies from the blood does not indicate the absence of infection, the researchers at CDC found that 13 percent of their study population had HPV antibodies in their blood.

Symptoms

Most people with HPV 16 do not develop any symptoms as their immune system can clear the infection naturally within two years. The virus can, however, cause vulvar, anal, vaginal and penile neoplasias characterized by abnormal growth of the epithelial tissues, which may develop into tumors and cancer. The neoplasia is more common in younger women and helps in the early detection of cervical cell abnormality. Most patients with cervical cancer do not have symptoms until the condition is really advanced and difficult to treat.

Diagnosis

Early detection of the infection is important for the management and treatment of HPV 16-mediated cervical or penile cancers. Regular Pap smear tests can help detect abnormal changes in the cervix. In fact, awareness about Pap smears has helped lower the incidence of cervical cancer by 28 percent between 1982 and 1997. The death rate associated with the disease fell by almost 47 percent during the same period.

Treatment and Prevention

Treatment of HPV 16-mediated cervical or penile cancer depends on the age and medical history of the patient, severity of the condition and the test results. It may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery. As always, prevention is always better than the treatment.

However, total abstinence is the only indubitable way of preventing HPV 16 infection. Having a single uninfected sexual partner will lower your risk significantly. Use of condoms may not influence your chances of getting the infection. Prophylactic vaccines have shown a lot of promise and may help prevent the incidence of the viral infection.

Prognosis

The prognosis or success rate of HPV 16 therapy depends on early detection. While there are no treatments for the virus itself, proper treatment can prevent cervical cell changes associated with the infection and thereby, lower the risk of serious, life-threatening cancers.

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