Human papillomavirus (HPV) and Cancer

The human papillomavirus (HPV) and the cancers it causes can devastate people’s lives.

HPV is responsible for around 690,000 cases of cancer worldwide every year. In Europe, it causes almost 100,000 cancer cases annually.1

HPV is not only the primary cause of cervical cancer but also causes vaginal, vulval, penile, anal and several types of head and neck cancers. While women are more commonly affected by HPV cancers than men, up to 30% of cases are in men.2

But HPV infection – and the diseases it causes – can be easily prevented. It is estimated that, if enough boys and girls were to be vaccinated, the number of people carrying the virus would fall by 80%–90% within five years, while the number of cervical cancer cases in women aged under 30 years could drop by 90%.3

The World Health Organization estimates that a combination of HPV vaccination and screening could lead to 72 million fewer cancer cases every year.

Yet the number of young people vaccinated against HPV in Europe is consistently below 60%,3 due to a lack of availability and access, and a general lack confidence in vaccines.

But these statistics do not tell the real story of what it means to develop a cancer caused by HPV, or of the trauma that both the cancer and its treatment causes to patients, as well as their family and friends.

People who have survived an HPV-related cancer talked to us about what they went through. They explain how they were diagnosed with cancer and their emotions and experiences as they dealt with that, and then started treatment. They talk about the impact on their lives and on those around them, and whether they have been able to get back to a ‘normal’ life.

They also talk to us about their thoughts on HPV itself and the availability of vaccination, and whether they would like to see universal vaccination for men and women. Finally, they give us their message to patients and policymakers so that others can learn from their stories.

We are very grateful to all those who have trusted us with very personal information about their lives. Unsurprisingly, some have chosen to remain anonymous.

Read the Stories here


1 The Lancet Global Health (2020). Global burden of cancer attributable to infections in 2018: A worldwide incidence analysis
2 BMC Cancer (2012). Estimation of the epidemiological burden of human papillomavirus-related cancers and non-malignant diseases in men in Europe: A review
3 European Cancer Organisation (2020). European Cancer Summit 2020 Report - Working Together Against Cancer: Breaking Down Barriers and Saving Lives