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4 ways to protect yourself from HPV

Jan. 7, 2018—You'll probably get a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection at some point in your life. Most people who have sex eventually do.

Most HPV infections are harmless and go away on their own, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But some types of the virus can cause genital warts. And some can cause cancer.

Most cervical cancers are caused by HPV infection. It can also cause cancers of the penis, anus, vagina, vulva, mouth and throat.

How do you get HPV?

HPV is transmitted through sexual activity—vaginal, anal or oral. Using a condom can lessen the likelihood of HPV transmission, according to CDC. But condoms only protect the skin they cover.

Does HPV cause symptoms?

Most people who get HPV never develop symptoms, according to CDC. If you have a type of HPV that causes genital warts, they may be your first sign of infection. Women might find out they have HPV when they undergo screening for cervical cancer.

Is there a test for HPV?

Not exactly. There are HPV tests for women that can be used to screen for cervical cancer. The tests are only recommended for screening in women age 30 and older. There are no HPV tests recommended for men, teens or women younger than 30.

How can you protect yourself against HPV?

There are several things you can do to lower your risk for HPV infection, according to CDC:

  • Only have sex with someone who isn't infected and who only has sex with you.
  • Use latex condoms correctly whenever you have sex. This won't fully protect you against infection, but it will lower your risk.
  • If you're a woman, get screened for cervical cancer.
  • Get vaccinated. The HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls at ages 11 and 12. If you weren't vaccinated as a child, catch-up vaccines are available for males and females through age 26.

How much do you know about cervical cancer screening? Take this quiz to find out.

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