How frequently does papillomavirus (HPV) infection cause cervical cancer?

Updated: Feb 12, 2019
  • Author: Cecelia H Boardman, MD; Chief Editor: Warner K Huh, MD  more...
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Answer

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection must be present for cervical cancer to occur. HPV infection occurs in a high percentage of sexually active women. However, approximately 90% of HPV infections clear on their own within months to a few years and with no sequelae, although cytology reports in the 2 years following infection may show a low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion.

On average, only 5% of HPV infections will result in the development of CIN grade 2 or 3 lesions (the recognized cervical cancer precursor) within 3 years of infection. Only 20% of CIN 3 lesions progress to invasive cervical cancer within 5 years, and only 40% of CIN 3 lesions progress to invasive cervical cancer with 30 years.


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