In the world, new tumours caused by HPV infection are diagnosed every day
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world.
What is HPV?
HPV is an extremely widespread virus. It can be transmitted between people through skin contact, mucous membranes and sexual intercourse.
In a very large part of the population, contact with the virus does not cause any disease, and tends to regress spontaneously. However, given it is very widespread, HPV is currently responsible for about 5% of all tumours in the world.
There are hundreds of HPV types, identified by a number and known as genotypes. Some genotypes, more than others, are able to induce transformations of cells into tumours and are defined as high-risk (HR) genotypes.
Types of viruses
Genotypes 16 and 18 are responsible for approximately 80% of anal tumours and 70% of male and female genital tumours.
It is sufficient to perform a simple swab of the affected region (anal, vaginal, pharyngeal, genital) to identify the possible presence of the virus and its genotype.
HPV and anal carcinoma
Anal HPV can remain silent for a long time. In some cases, it causes the formation of lesions called warts or condylomas which, if left untreated, can turn into dysplasia and subsequently into malignant tumours.
The presence of HPV is found in all anogenital tumours, regardless of gender. The virus is present in 88% of anal tumours, especially in the HPV 16 and 18 variants. Homosexual men with HIV infection represent the category most at risk of HPV infection and the development of anal tumour, but also among heterosexual men and women, HPV is mainly responsible for this neoplasia.
The virus can also affect the genital, anal, oral and urethral mucous membranes. In this case, the lesions are not visible from the outside and require specific instrumental checks to allow early diagnosis. Failure to treat the lesions increases the risk of tumour progression.
In the mucous membranes, mainly genital and anal, HPV causes cellular alterations known as dysplasia. In dysplasia, cells altered by the virus tend to grow irregularly and excessively, having lost the ability to limit their own replication. For this reason, dysplasia is called precancerous lesion, because if it is not eliminated it transforms into a malignant tumour, capable of invading adjacent areas and metastasising at a distance.
allows dysplasia to be identified
How does anal HPV manifest?
The presence of the HPV virus in the anal canal, as well as in all mucous areas, is not normally perceptible. The only symptom that is sometimes associated with anal HPV infection is itching. In widespread and advanced forms of dysplasia, you may have modest bleeding and a burning sensation.
HPV infection is normally asymptomatic. Particularly at the anal level, the lesions are often NOT visible from the outside. Only the search for the virus and the use of specific instruments can lead to the correct diagnosis.
There is no specific therapy to eliminate HPV from the body, but numerous minimally invasive treatments are available for the treatment of condylomas, dysplasia and precancerous forms. Finally, vaccination can reduce the risk of infection recurrence and progression from precancerous lesion to cancer.
What are the
The risk of HPV infection progressing to cancer development increases with additional risk factors:
Immunosuppression and HIV
Number of sexual partners and practices
Prolonged use of contraceptives
HPV virus is extremely widespread in the general population. Thousands of people are infected with HPV every day.
The immune system (the body's defence system) is almost always able to limit the development of HPV, preventing the formation of lesions that can progress into cancer.
In people who have a weak or fragile immune system, HPV can more easily and quickly produce lesions that can turn into cancer.
Although the most frequent cause of immunosuppression is HIV infection, there are many other people who for various reasons have an immune system deficit, such as transplant recipients, those receiving cortisone therapy or biological agents, pregnant women, the elderly and those suffering from chronic diseases. In these groups, HPV infection is able to cause changes much more quickly and aggressively.