Medically reviewed iconMedically Reviewed

HPV Is Not Just Cancer

Jan 19, 2024

2 min read

HPV is one of the most common causes of cervical cancer in the world. In India, cervical cancer is the second leading cause of death among individuals assigned female at birth. Here’s everything you need to know about it. 

Share Article

Share article icon for viewing share options
Teenagers talking to each other and showing off their new HPV vaccinations.
Rhea Kadakia, Junior Writer, Fluent Health



Cervical cancer claims the life of one woman every two minutes. HPV is one of the most common causes of cervical cancer. If you’ve been reading the news in India lately, you’ve probably stumbled upon a similar fact or two. Now, if you’re confused about what HPV is or what the meaning of human papillomavirus is, then this quick guide is a great place to get updated.

What is HPV, and what happens when you get infected?

HPV stands for human papillomavirus, which is an STI. It is worth noting that HPV is among the most commonly spread STIs globally. HPV comes in over 100 different types, including strains that can cause warts on your hand, face and feet. Of these 100 types, only about 30 affect the genitals, including the vulva, vagina, cervix, penis and scrotum, as well as the rectum and anus.​​ An important piece of information to keep in mind is that all warts are HPV, but not all forms of HPV manifest as warts. In fact, the type of HPV that can progress towards cancer doesn’t cause warts.

Human papillomavirus and cancer

In about 90 per cent of these cases, the body clears out the HPV infection; in some, however, HPV can lead to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, globally. 2020 displayed 604,000 new cases of cervical cancer with about 342,000 deaths. 90 per cent of these deaths have taken place in low and middle-income countries. However, with vaccination, studies show HPV can be prevented. Regular screenings with your OB-GYN are also essential.

HPV prevention initiative in India for girls

Cervical cancer is the second most prevalent cancer in Indian women. As per the union government’s data, India contributes the largest proportion to the global cervical cancer burden. As a nationwide preventative measure, the government is set to launch a campaign, starting in the second quarter of this year, to provide free HPV vaccines to girls aged nine to fourteen. 

The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) has maintained that the HPV vaccine is highly effective for the prevention of HPV serotypes 16 and 18, which cause 70 per cent of cervical cancer.

The vaccination will be provided through health facilities, and for out-of-school girls, the campaign will be conducted through outreach programs and mobile teams of healthcare providers.

Moreover, the vaccine doesn’t just protect against cervical cancer but shields against related malignancies and genital warts.

Remember, HPV goes beyond cervical cancer

While the prevention initiative taken up by the Indian government only targets girls aged nine to fourteen, the vaccine can be taken by anyone, man or woman aged nine to forty-five.
Something to keep in mind is that HPV is a large family of viruses and does not only affect women. 4 in 5 men and women have had an HPV infection at least once in their lifetime. Remember to always speak with your doctor and learn more about the HPV vaccine before getting immunised.

Medically Reviewed by:

Dr. Uday Thanawala, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist

Rhea Kadakia, Junior Writer, Fluent Health

Rhea Kadakia has been writing across the spectrum of lifestyle journalism from her first days as an intern at the India Today Group. Since then she has fine tuned her knack of storytelling within a given context at Vogue, DNA, and CNN News 18. Her work at Fluent Health immerses her in the thick of a tidal change in healthcare, making access to informed and quality healthcare a reality for everyone. 

Share Article

Share article icon for viewing share options

Popular Tags

Go To Articles