Cancers attributable to human papillomavirus infection

Sex Health. 2010 Sep;7(3):244-52. doi: 10.1071/SH10020.


Although the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was introduced primarily as a cervical cancer prevention vaccine, HPV has a causal role in several types of cancer. This article reviews the epidemiological evidence for the role of HPV in human cancer, and describes Australian trends in these cancers. HPV is a necessary cause of cervical cancer. The currently vaccine-preventable subtypes of HPV 16 and 18 are responsible for ~70% of cervical cancer. The introduction of an organised Pap smear program in Australia led to a steep decline in incidence over the past decades. HPV can be detected in ~40% and 70% of vulval and vaginal cancers respectively. Rates of these cancers have been stable over the past 20 years. The prevalence of HPV in penile cancer is ~50% and incidence has not recently changed. For anal cancer, ~85% of cases are HPV positive, and incidence has increased significantly in both men and women over the past 20 years. In the oral cavity, ~35% of oropharyngeal cancers and ~25% of other oral cavity cancers are HPV positive. The incidence of HPV-related oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers is increasing, whereas incidence at HPV-unrelated sites is decreasing. Overall, 1154 HPV-related cancer cases were potentially preventable by vaccination. If HPV-related cancers at non-cervical sites are prevented by vaccination, then a similar number of cancer cases will be prevented as in the cervix. However, almost one-quarter of the potentially preventable cancer cases are in men, who are not included in the current national immunisation program.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Anus Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Anus Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / prevention & control
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / epidemiology*
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Human papillomavirus 16*
  • Human papillomavirus 18*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Papanicolaou Test
  • Papillomavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Penile Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Penile Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Population Surveillance
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / prevention & control
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Vaginal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Vaginal Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Vaginal Smears
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Vulvar Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Young Adult


  • Papillomavirus Vaccines