Mild cellular changes detected by Pap smears don't necessarily lead to cancer, a fact that played a role in the new pullback on cervical cancer screening, but both cell changes and cervical cancer can be traced to human papillomavirus.
As today's story noted: "Human papillomavirus, or HPV, which causes cervical cancer and infects half of all young women within a few years of sexual activity's start, also causes cell changes called dysplasia. Those abnormal cells are typically removed before they become cancerous. But such treatment may not be necessary."
Here's an overview of cervical dysplasia from the Women's Health Channel. It notes that up to 70% of mild cases resolve on their own.
The likelihood of progression depends on the amount of dysplasia. Here's what the site says about the stages.
And here are some questions and answers about human papillomaviruses, which have also been linked to cancers of the anus, penis, vulva and vagina -- and to genital warts. The information is from the National Cancer Institute. Of note: There are more than 100 types of HPV; some are considerably more likely to cause cancer than others.
It states: "Both high-risk and low-risk types of HPV can cause the growth of abnormal cells, but only the high-risk types of HPV lead to cancer. Sexually transmitted, high-risk HPVs include types 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, 66, 68, and 73. These high-risk types of HPV cause growths on the cervix that are usually flat and nearly invisible, as compared with the external warts caused by low-risk types HPV–6 and HPV–11. HPV types 16 and 18 together cause about 70% of cervical cancers."
The Gardasil vaccine can protect against some, including types 16 and 18, but not all.
-- Tami Dennis
Photo: The HPV vaccine protects against four strains.
Credit: European Pressphoto Agency