During the past 20 years, several types of human papillomaviruses (HPVs) have been identified that cause specific types of cancers. The etiology of cancer of the cervix has been linked to several types of HPV, with a high preponderance of HPV16. The role of these virus infections has been established 1) by the regular presence of HPV DNA in the respective tumor biopsy specimens, 2) by the demonstration of viral oncogene expression (E6 and E7) in tumor material, 3) by the identification of transforming properties of these genes, 4) by the requirement for E6 and E7 expression for maintaining the malignant phenotype of cervical carcinoma cell lines, 5) by the interaction of viral oncoproteins with growth-regulating host-cell proteins, and 6) by epidemiologic studies pointing to these HPV infections as the major risk factor for cervical cancer development. In addition to cancer of the cervix, a major proportion of anal, perianal, vulvar, and penile cancers appears to be linked to the same HPV infections. In addition, close to 20% of oropharyngeal cancers contain DNA from the same types of HPV. Recent evidence also points to a possible role of other HPV infections in squamous cell carcinomas of the skin. This review covers recent developments in understanding molecular mechanisms of HPV carcinogenesis, mainly discussing functions of viral oncoproteins and the regulation of viral oncogenes by host-cell factors. Modifications in host-cell genes, most likely engaged in the control of HPV gene expression in proliferating cells, emerge as important events in HPV-mediated carcinogenesis.