By Ximena Zornosa, DMD
The human papillomavirus (HPV) encompasses a large group of related viruses that can infect human skin and mucosa. The lesions that occur in mucosa can arise in the anogenital region and upper aerodigestive tract. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than140 types of HPV exist, with approximately 40 types affecting the oral cavity. Virus types are classified as low risk or high risk depending on their potential to develop into benign, premalignant, or malignant lesions. Low-risk types may cause no disease or benign growths such as squamous papilloma, verruca vulgaris, genital warts, or various sinonasal papillomas. High-risk types of HPV are more likely to increase an individual’s risk of developing a carcinoma. Infection with HPV is recognized as a causal factor in the development of carcinoma in the anogenital region, including the uterine cervix, anus, vagina, vulva, and penis. In the head and neck, HPV is associated with the high-risk variants responsible for oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma.
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