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HPV and cervical cancer: an urgent alert.


A great deal has been reported on the AIDS virus and its link to sexual activities (among others). Now, however, another potentially lethal, but treatable, group of viruses is stalking the bedroom--viruses that merit both public attention and immediate action.

Human papillomaviruses (HPVs), specifically HPV 16 and HPV 18, have been linked to the development of cervical cancer. The HPV infection, usually manifested by the development of condyloma (warts) primarily of the external genitalia, cervix or male urethra, is easily treated in both men and women. Identifying the presence of HPV even when warts or lesions are not visible is relatively simple. Acetic acid (vinegar), applied to the external genitalia or the cervix, causes HPV lesions to appear white. Once sighted, the HPV warts can usually be destroyed by laser technology, simple cryotherapy--freezing with nitrous oxide, or topical application of 5-Flourical cream, says Dr. Ronald Sagalowsky, an Indianapolis urologist.

HPV 16 and 18 have been indicted as causative agents of cervical cancer. Because of these viruses, individuals can move from a negative to a positive Pap smear for cervical cancer in a relatively short time. This is why sexually active females, whatever their ages, should have Pap smears at least annually and in some instances every six months. However, Pap smears can be misleading if they are performed incorrectly, or misread by laboratories. If a woman has questions about a report's accuracy, she should seek a second test either by the same examiner or by someone else. The risks associated with not having the test, or having inaccurate tests, can be life-threatening.

Males should also examine themselves for possible genital infection and seek medical assesment as soon as possible. (New England Journal of Medicine, June 1, 1989; 320:22:1437.) (Saturday Evening Post, May-June, 1987; 259:4:104.)
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Title Annotation:human papillomaviruses 16 and 18
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jul 1, 1989
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