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Can You Get HPV Non-Sexually?

Reviewed on 4/29/2019

Ask a Doctor

I’m 13 and I have to go on birth control for some irregularities in my period. But my mom is freaking out because she thinks I’m going to take advantage and start having sex. She gave me all this literature about STDs and stuff. One of the things it says is you can get genital warts just by touching! Is that true? Can you get HPV non-sexually?

Doctor's Response

Your mom might have a point. Genital warts are indirectly associated with use of birth control pills due to increased sexual contact without the use of barrier protection, multiple sex partners, and having sex at an early age. And yes, in some cases HPV may be passed on through close skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity.

Genital warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is typically spread from person to person through vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

Other types of HPV that can cause common warts such as -- hand warts and plantar warts on the feet -- are not sexually transmitted. Over 100 types of HPVs have been identified; about 40 of these types have the potential to infect the genital area.

  • Most genital warts are caused by two specific types of the virus (HPV-6 and -11), and these HPV types are considered "low risk," meaning they have a low cancer-causing potential. Other HPV types are known causes of premalignant changes and cervical cancers in women. HPV-16, one of the "high-risk" types, is responsible for about 50% of cervical cancers. HPV types 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58, 59, and 68 are other known "high risk" virus types. High-risk HPV types are also referred to as oncogenic HPV types. HPV is believed to cause 100% of cases of cervical cancer.
  • Common warts are not the same as genital warts and are caused by different HPV types that infect the skin.

The viral particles are able to penetrate the skin and mucosal surfaces through microscopic abrasions in the genital area, which occur during sexual activity. Once cells are invaded by HPV, a latency (quiet) period of months to years may occur, during which there is no evidence of infection.

Generally, about two-thirds of people who have sexual contact with a partner who has genital warts develop them within three months.

Read our full medical article for more information about STDs.

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Reviewed on 4/29/2019
References
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD coauthored this article.

REFERENCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HPV and Men - Fact Sheet. 14 July 2017. 27 December 2018 .