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Cervical Cancer Prevention Week: 21-27 January 2013.

This January the European Cervical Cancer Association (ECCA) runs Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. Over six days, the organisation wants to draw awareness to cervical cancer by providing information on the development of the disease and prevention.

Every year in the UK, over 2,900 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and nearly 1,000 women will die from the disease. After breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women aged 35 and under.

Cervical cancer is not thought to be hereditary. Cervical cancer, in 99.7% of cases, is caused by persistent infection with a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a very common virus transmitted through skin to skin contact in the genital area. Around 4 out of 5 people (80%) will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives. However, for the majority of women this will not result in cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is rare while HPV infection is common.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is an extremely common virus. At some point in our life most of us will catch the virus. The world over, HPV is the most widespread sexually transmitted virus; 80% (four out of five) [1] of the world's population will contract some type of the virus once. If you catch HPV, in the majority of cases the body's immune system will clear or get rid of the virus without the need for further treatment. In fact you may not even know that you had contracted the virus.

There are over one hundred identified strains of HPV; each different type has been assigned a number. HPV infects the skin and mucosa (any moist membranes such as the lining of the mouth and throat, the cervix and the anus). Different strains affect different parts of the body and cause different types of lesions. The majority of HPV types infect skin on external areas of the body including the hands and feet. For example, HPV strains 1 and 2 cause verrucas on the feet [2].

Around forty of the HPV strains affect the genital areas of men and women, including the skin of the penis, vulva (area outside the vagina), and anus, and the linings of the vagina, cervix, and rectum [3]. In women, around 20 of these strains are oncogenic (cancer causing) and associated with the development of cervical cancer, the so called high-risk HPV types [4]. A person infected with high-risk genital HPV will show no symptoms so they may never even know they have it.

The remaining genital HPV types have been designated low-risk as they do not cause cervical cancer but they cause other problems such as genital warts.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)


[1.] Koutsky L (1997) Epidemiology of genital human papillomavirus infection. The American Journal of Medicine, 102 (5A), 3-8.

[2.] Lacey CJ, Lowndes CM and Shah KV (2006) Chapter 4: Burden and management of non-cancerous HPV-related conditions: HPV-6/11 disease. Vaccine, 24 (3), S3/35-41.

[3.] Giuliano AR et al. (2008) Epidemiology of human papillomavirus infection in men, cancers other than cervical and benign conditions. Vaccine, 26 (10), K17-28.

[4.] Walboomers JMM et al. (1999) Human papillomavirus is a necessary cause of invasive cancer worldwide. Journal of Pathology, 189 (1), 12-19.

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Title Annotation:Information; European Cervical Cancer Association
Publication:Podiatry Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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