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The Ultimate Controversy: Will HPV Go Away on Its Own?

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Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

One of the reasons that the question still persists regarding whether or not HPV goes away on its own is that the answer is both yes, and no. Each of these answers depends upon numerous factors including some understanding of the medical aspects of virus.

The body is truly incredible when one stops to think of all the functions it carries out at any given moment, all acting in conjunction with one another. It would be wrong to simply state that in the majority of cases the body’s immune system will rid itself of the virus. And yet many doctors and nurses do say this, usually as the result of misunderstanding the virus themselves.

When it comes to the immune system, there is a general lack of knowledge regarding the body’s tumor suppressor proteins.

It would actually be more correct to say that the virus never truly leaves.

HPV, which is short for human papillomavirus, was actually discovered as the cause of cervical cancer in 1983 by Professor Harald zur Hausen, MD. Dr. zur Hausen had been studying HPV, which is named in sequence of its finding (come to be known as strain) and took quite a number of years before he discovered the first HPV strains associated with cancer.

It was during 1983 that his research lead to the discovery of HPV16, which was found to be present in 50 percent of the cervical cancer cells which he was studying. A year later, he discovered HPV18 which was shown to exist within yet another 20 percent of these cancer specimens.

Today, these two HPV strains alone, 16 and 18, are known to be responsible for a total of 70 percent of all cervical cancers. HPV16 and HPV18 are also known to be responsible for 90 percent and more of anal cancers.

It now becomes important to understand how the body responds when introduced to the HPV virus. The tumor suppressor proteins contained by the body are referred to as p53 and pRb. p53 is the most commonly mutated tumor suppressor protein involved in cancer.

Such is the case with cancers involving HPV as well. These tumor suppressor proteins were only discovered in the late 1970’s, a few short years before the discovery of HPV16.

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Actually statistics from the CDC have shown at 80% of individuals will have an HPV infection at some time in their lifetime until about March of last year. At that time, research was released by Dr. Anna Giuliano of Moffit Cancer Center showing that 50% of South and North American males were more than likely infected with HPV. Suddenly the CDC changed its statistics. This research was confined to males but was the only coinciding event which after years of using 80% the CDC up and changed its numbers.
Despite writing to them and asking for them to clarify this (they get their info from a third party) I have yet to receive an answer.
I am more likely to believe the numbers previously used of 80% especially since there are so many cases which are never reported as there is no dysplasia reporting center as there is with cancer.
If you think of HPV DNA like an ingredient in a cake, once you ad it in (equivalent to the HPV DNA incorporating itself into our own cells, you can't just separate it out. So even though you cannot see it there is no way for the DNA to disassemble itself. As I've mentioned when cells become abnormal, the bodies TSP (tumor suppressor proteins) are programmed to instruct the cell to basically commit suicide to prevent just this kind of thing - replication of abnormal cells. But, HPV has its own oncoproteins which disable those TSPs which is how it can get around the bodys immune system and lead to dysplasia and/or cancer.

February 9, 2012 - 6:05am

It's great that you wrote an article on this - I've talked to several doctors about this and they've all given different answers. Most say to not worry about it because it's so common. They suggest only doing follow up papsmears and tests if there are abnormal cells in the cervix. I think most doctors give that answer because there is such a stigma against anything that is transmitted sexually, and in this case according to statistics about 50% of sexually active people will get it in their lifetime anyway. So if everyone basically has it, why should you feel ashamed? I would just do consistent screenings to hopefully prevent cancer like you would for other health issues.

February 8, 2012 - 10:41pm
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