Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses that are extremely common worldwide.
There are more than 100 types of HPV, of which at least 14 are cancer-causing (also known as high risk type).
HPV is mainly transmitted through sexual contact and most people are infected with HPV shortly after the onset of sexual activity.
Cervical cancer is caused by sexually acquired infection with certain types of HPV.
Two HPV types (16 and 18) cause 70% of cervical cancers and pre-cancerous cervical lesions.
There is also evidence linking HPV with cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis and oropharynx.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women living in less developed regions with an estimated 570 000 new cases (1) in 2018 (84% of the new cases worldwide).
In 2018, approximately 311 000 women died from cervical cancer; more than 85% of these deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.
Comprehensive cervical cancer control includes primary prevention (vaccination against HPV), secondary prevention (screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions), tertiary prevention (diagnosis and treatment of invasive cervical cancer) and palliative care.
Vaccines that protect against HPV 16 and 18 are recommended by WHO and have been approved for use in many countries.
Screening and treatment of pre-cancer lesions in women of 30 years and more is a cost-effective way to prevent cervical cancer.
Clinical trials and post-marketing surveillance have shown that HPV vaccines are very safe and very effective in preventing infections with HPV infections.
Cervical cancer can be cured if diagnosed at an early stage.