The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a common group of viruses. Over 100 different types of HPV have been identified, and each one is known by a number. HPV affects the skin and the mucosa. The mucosa is the moist membrane that line parts of the body, such as the insides of the mouth, throat and anus.
Some types of HPV are known to increase the risk of developing different types of cancer. These are called high-risk HPVs. Types 16 and 18 are the types of HPV most often associated with cancer. High-risk HPVs can lead to abnormal changes in the cells, which is sometimes called dyskaryosis. Although these abnormal changes are not cancer, they are sometimes described as being pre-cancerous.
Other types of HPV can cause warts and verrucas. These may appear on different parts of the body, but are most often seen:
- on the hands and feet
- in the genital area
- around the anus.
The types of HPV that cause visible warts and verrucas are less clearly linked with cell changes that can increase the risk of cancer. They are called low-risk HPVs.
This information is about the high-risk HPV types that can increase the risk of developing cancer.