How do HPV and high-risk HPV differ?
What exactly is the difference between HPV and high-risk HPV? Isn't it all the same virus? So how can the ""risk"" be different? Also, I know HPV can cause cervical cancer, but can it do anything else?
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is a complicated and common virus that is also associated with the development of cancer. It can be shared in many ways, but usually involves the transmission of body fluids. There are many variants of this virus, each of which is defined as being distinct if it shares no more than ninety percent of it's DNA with another strain. It's important to understand how these and other viruses work in order to answer your question. Viruses work by using the body's own cellular machinery to make more copies of the virus. Normal, healthy cells have mechanisms to self-destruct, or at least turn off if they notice runaway production of inappropriate material. HPV is remarkable because it also makes proteins that stop the body from self regulation. Some of these proteins can transform a normal cell into a self-replicating, immortal cell that does not respond to the body's efforts to correct or shut down. These cells at times make more copies of themselves, and can eventually become cancer. High risk types of HPV are those that do a better job of transforming normal cells into immortal, malignant (or cancerous) cells. When these cancerous cells are later removed from an infected person, microscopic evaluation of the affected cells demonstrates that the virus is present and has affected attempts at self destruction or self control. While not all people infected with "high risk" HPV will develop cancer, they are at an increased risk for some kinds of cancer. Healthy lifestyle choices and not sharing bodily fluids will help both those affected and those who surround them. Please contact your doctor if you or someone you know has been told that they have high risk HPV, so as to be able to obtain the appropriate screening.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.