HPV is part of the papilloma virus family that is responsible for warts appearing on the skin in various places on the body including genital and anogenital warts (Oyster, 1999). There are a variety of different types of warts that are caused by over 50 different strains of the Papillomavirus (Tortora, 2002). Although the presence of warts is the most common symptom of a HPV infection, it is also common for an infected individual to have no manifestation of warts. The connection between a viral infection and the development of cancer in the infected tissue has been long recognized by the medical community. There are multiple strains of HPV that have been identified as causing cancer. HPV 16 and 18 are two common strains of the virus that are associated with cervical cancer (Phillips, 2001).
The two preventive measures we have against HPV are pap smears and vaccines. Women who receive annual pap smears greatly reduce their risk in an HPV infection developing into cervical cancer (Phillips, 2001). Pap smears are the most significant preventive measure for cervical cancer. This routine test involves a sample of cervical tissue removed from the cervix so that it may be examined for any irregularities. If irregular cells are found this is a strong indicator that HPV is present. The cells would be tested for the virus and if the results from the test come back positive for HPV, the doctor will do another pap smear within several months. If the abnormal tissue persists, the cervical tissue is removed helping to reduce the progression of the abnormal tissue becoming cervical cancer (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006).
However, the recent introduction of an HPV vaccine offers another key preventive measure against the development of cervical cancer in women. This vaccine provides immunity for four known strains of HPV that are most commonly found in cervical cancer (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006). However, this vaccine does not protect against all type of HPV that cause cancer and women who receive the vaccine should still have pap smears. The presence of several different Papillomavirus strains in cancer tumors has lead to an increased awareness of the importance of preventing the transmission of the virus. Another vaccine that has yet to be approved is being developed to immunize individuals against two of the most common strains of HPV linked to cervical cancer (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006). The preventive measures mentioned above all focus on women's health. However, research is being conducted to produce vaccines for males as well due to the relationship of HPV leading to cancers developing in the penis and anus.