What do the viruses do?

In most women does not cause any problems, as the body will get rid of the virus on its own.

Some types can cause cell changes on the skin. These are called either high risk or low risk types depending on what changes they can cause.

High risk types of HPV can cause changes in the cells of the skin covering the neck of the womb (cervix). These cell changes are called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). Most CIN will go away on its own, but sometimes it can get worse and become cervical cancer.

High-risk types of HPV can also cause changes in the skin cells in other parts of the body, including the vagina, vulva, anus, throat and mouth.

Types 16 and 18 are the most common high-risk types, but there are 14 high-risk types that are tested for in cervical screening.

Low risk types of HPV can cause warts. Cervical screening does not test for low risk types as they will not cause cervical cancer.