Different strains have evolved over time through evolution into five sub-groups, each with unique ways to infiltrate and cause disease in an individual.
Some strains cause minor papilloma’s on the surface of the skin, while others have no symptoms but have the ability to slowly develop into cancers.
The most widely studied HPV sub-group is classified as Alpha types. Alpha types are more researched because they are typically associated with cervical cancer. The alpha types can be divided into high-risk and low-risk strains.
Low-risk strains often cause common warts on the surface of the skin. These strains of HPV are considered low-risk because they rarely develop into cancer.
HPV strains 6 and 11 are the most common low-risk HPV strains, causing 90% of genital warts.
Genital warts are soft, fleshy, cauliflower-like growths that can grow in genital areas including the anus and penis. These warts can be painful, itchy, annoying, and, worst of all, highly persistent. Warts generally show up a few weeks or months after sexual contact with an infected partner.
Like most HPV infections, genital warts will usually be cleared by a strong, healthy immune system. Taking supplements like green tea extract, found in papillex, can also help improve wart clearance.
High-risk strains of HPV have a higher likelihood of developing into cancers.
High-risk strains often do not cause symptoms so many are unaware that they have contracted a strain of HPV. The high-risk strains develop slowly overtime, causing minor changes to the cells of the cervix, anus, or oral cavity. High-risk strains that persist for a number of years increase the risk that cancer will evolve.
12 HPVs (16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, and 59) are defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as being high-risk cancer causing types. Together these HPV’s cause half a million cases of cervical cancer per year worldwide. HPV-16 and 18 are the most common strains associated with cervical cancer, causing about 70% of cervical cancers.
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These strains can also cause cancers at other sites, including the penis, vagina, and vulva and in the oral cavity.
The reason high-risk strains are more likely to cause cancer is thought to be due to where the virus has evolved to infiltrate the body and specific proteins within the viral machinery.
Particular areas within the cervix lining are more susceptible to fostering cell replication than others. HPV that gain access to the transformational zone in the cervix have been linked to higher rates of cancer progression.
Viral proteins identified as E6 and E7, have been found to be responsible for stimulating cell cycle entry into the upper epithelial layers and linked to cancerous changes.
Despite high-risk strains increasing one’s risk of cancer, contracting a strain does not mean you are going to get cancer. The majority of individuals will clear the infection within a few years and have no complications.
Transmission and Infection Rates
The variety of HPV strains and the transmissibility of the virus means most individuals will pick up one strain of HPV in their lifetime.
HPV is one of the most easily transmitted sexually transmitted diseases. The virus can be contracted just through skin contact with an infected individual. Because the virus lives within the skin cells, even protected sexual contact can lead to transmission from areas that aren’t covered by a barrier.
Getting Regular Pap Tests
Getting regular pap tests is important to monitor any potential infections and complications. Cell progression is caught easily in pap tests, and awareness is key to taking preventative measures to clear the virus.
The recommendation for disease control and prevention is to get one pap test every three years to keep an eye on your cervical cells, and more frequently if you have ever had an abnormal pap test.
How Can I Protect Myself Against HPV?
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from HPV complications is maintaining your overall health. A healthy immune system is the hallmark of HPV infections, where the failure to develop effective cell-mediated immunity to clear or control the infection results in persistent infection and increases the probability that the cells progress to cancer.
We can support and build our immune system by making healthy choices every day. Some important factors in supporting your overall health include:
Optimizing Nutrition and Supplementation
Consuming a fruit and vegetable-rich diet, limiting sugar and refined carbohydrate intake has been found to have a positive effect on the overall function of the immune system.
Managing Psychological Stress
Prolonged stress has been found to create an imbalance in the ability of the body to fight incoming infection, by over activating areas of the immune system that exacerbate chronic illness. Engaging in daily stress management practices like meditation, exercise, and socializing can have a positive effect in improving the bodies overall resiliency.
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Getting Good Quality Sleep
Getting adequate rest, seven to eight hours of quality sleep per night, allows the immune system time to revitalize, balance hormones and it initiates cellular repair. Setting a regular bedtime, limiting caffeine intake in the afternoon, and eating a nutrient-dense diet are all ways we can improve our sleep quality.
Engaging in Regular Exercise and Movement
From improved circulation to naturally increasing the bodies white blood cell and antibody count, staying active has a range of benefits in helping support the immune system and defense against disease. We recommend talking daily walks and engaging in bi-weekly strength training and aerobic activity.