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HPV’s Role in Breast Cancer

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. There are at least 100 different types of human papillomavirus (HPV) in existence. Almost 80 million people in the United States are currently infected. Certain types of HPV can cause cervical cancer, but the question of whether or not HPV causes other types of cancer, like breast cancer, remains.

Breast Cancer and HPV

How Breast Cancer Forms

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States, and it has the highest death rate of any type of cancer in women. One in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime. In 2016, approximately 246,660 new diagnoses of invasive and 61,000 diagnoses of noninvasive breast cancer will occur in women in the US.

Breast cancer usually starts in the milk-producing glands, called lobules, or the ducts that drain milk to the nipple. Cancer then becomes invasive, growing out into the normal tissue.

  • Noninvasive cancers, also known as carcinoma in situ, stay inside the lobules or ducts. They don’t invade normal tissue around or beyond the breast.
  • Invasive cancers grow out into and beyond surrounding healthy tissue. Most breast cancers are invasive.

Breast Cancer Not Linked to HPV

Researchers have connected HPV to cervical cancer, there isn’t necessarily a link between breast cancer and HPV is controversial. Some studies have found a higher diagnosis of breast cancer in those who have or have had HPV, but findings were minimal. More research is needed.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

HPV isn’t currently considered a risk factor for breast cancer, but other risk factors include:

  • increasing age
  • obesity
  • radiation exposure
  • having a child at an older age
  • not giving birth to any children
  • starting your period at a young age
  • beginning menopause later in life
  • drinking alcohol

Breast cancer isn’t usually inherited, but genetic factors may play a role for some people. Eighty-five percent of the cases occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. The greatest risk factor for HPV is sexual activity, especially with multiple partners.

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