HPV infected cervical cells

Infection with human papilloma virus (HPV) is the cause of almost all cervical cancers. There are specific strains of HPV that are cancer causing, most notably HPV 16 and 18.

But what is the risk of getting cancer from HPV?

Here are some eye-opening stats.

HPV 16 and 18 are more cancer causing than cigarettes. If you are a smoker then your risk of getting lung cancer increases 8 times (an 800% increase). In epidemiological terms, that’s mega huge (and why health experts prattle on so much about cigarettes). The combination of estrogen and Provera (a synthetic progesterone) increased the risk of breast cancer for menopausal women 1.3 fold (a 30% increase). This was enough of an increase that the trial was stopped.

The biggest player in cervical cancer is HPV 16. Infection with HPV 16 increases a woman’s risk of cervical cancer 434 fold and HPV 18 increases that same woman’s cancer risk 248 times. Cigarettes are but a drop in the cancer bucket when compared with HPV.

And 5% of young women will become infected with HPV 16 and 2% with HPV 18 within 4 years of initiating sexual activity (all told approximately 80% of sexually active women will be exposed to and infected with some kind of HPV virus by the age of 24).

The good news is that 80% will also clear the virus. Their immune system will kick in and contain it. However, for 15% of women with HPV 16 and 5% with HPV 18, over 3 years their infection will not be contained and will develop into a pre-cancer, which left untreated will almost certainly progress to a cancer.

And that is why we need the HPV vaccine, because both commercially available vaccines target the two HPV strains that are the most oncogenic (likely to cause cancer).

HPV 16 and 18 are FAR MORE cancer causing than cigarettes and 7% of young women will be infected with this virus when it can do the most damage, when they are young.




Brown et al. (2005) J Infect Diseases

Winer et al. (2003) Am J Epidemiol

Winer et al. (2006) NEJM


Join the Conversation


  1. Oh please stop trying to scare women -according to the National Cancer Instittue 0.68% of women born today will be diagnosed with cervical cancer vs 105,770 women with lung cancer alone. Less then 4300 a year die from cervical cancer (mostly low income or immigrants) which is 100% curable if caught early. Sounds like the drug co’s marketing campaign has worked.

    As you stated Nearly all women get HPV and clear it without any problem and yet there are only a couple of thousand deaths a year from a completely treatable illness. You don’t get cancer a few years later but up to 20 or 30 years later – how long does the vaccine last? If it stops working or you don’t develop a natural immunity what happens? Why does an IUD cut the rates of cancer in half?

    The vast majority of women who get cervical cancer are women who don’t get ongoing gyn care so we are giving a very expensive drug to the wrong women and there will be no change in cervical cancer rates (20 years from now). In the interim however drugs co’s will make billions by giving shots to the wrong people.

    No one has studied the HPV vaccine for more then a few years so we have no evidence that this will work at a cost of 900 per girl. Did you know you can’t sue vaccine mfgs? You bought the kool-aid.. They are simply selling a product.

  2. These numbers are a good start, but one wonders about the usual course of the 15% of the 5% and 5% of the 2% who get “pre-cancer (?Dysplasia?) all the way out to how many die from cervical cancer in the US. What are those numbers, please?
    For a better feel on the HPV vaccine, what percent of which percent get which outcome(s)?
    Thanks if you can expand the picture to help those trying to get a grasp on the breadth of the problem and current options.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: