What Is the Cause of Papillomas?

Reviewed on 12/29/2020

What Are Papillomas?

Viruses, smoking and sun damage are big causes of papillomas, which are benign (noncancerous) growths. Though papillomas themselves aren't usually dangerous, they can indicate a risk for cancer.
Viruses (such as sexually transmitted HPV), smoking and sun damage are big causes of papillomas, which are benign (noncancerous) growths. Though papillomas themselves aren’t usually dangerous, they can indicate a risk for cancer.

Papillomas are tumors that arise from body tissues that cover all body surfaces, from the skin to internal organs (epithelial tissue). These tumors form finger-like branches that extend outward. Papillomas on the skin are called warts and verrucae. 

Papillomas are benign (noncancerous) growths, which means they do not spread and they do not grow aggressively, though they can cause problems if they occur in certain locations. 

Though papillomas are not cancerous, they are associated with an increased risk of cancer.

What Are Symptoms of Papillomas?

Papillomas often do not cause any symptoms. 

Some papillomas may cause local irritation. When symptoms do occur, they may depend on the location. 

  • Papillomas on the skin (warts) often feel like rough bumps.
  • Papillomas on the feet (plantar warts) may cause pain. 
  • Genital warts may cause itching, burning, or tenderness.
  • Papillomas in the female breast duct (intraductal papillomas) can cause clear or bloody discharge from the nipple. They may also cause pain. 
  • A papilloma in the voice box (larynx) (laryngeal papilloma) may cause hoarseness, noisy breathing, trouble swallowing, and in severe cases, difficulty breathing due to obstruction of the airways.
  • A papilloma in the sinuses (inverted papilloma) can push against nearby structures such as the eye.

What Causes Papillomas?

The cause of most papillomas is the human papillomavirus (HPV). 

Other causes of papillomas include: 

How Are Papillomas Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of skin papillomas (warts, plantar warts, or genital warts) is made with a physical examination. If the diagnosis is uncertain, tests may include: 

  • Skin scrapings
  • Biopsy

Papillomas in the female breast duct (intraductal papillomas) are diagnosed with:

Papilloma in the voice box (larynx) (laryngeal papilloma) is diagnosed with:

  • Laryngoscopy
  • Biopsy 

A papilloma in the sinuses (inverted papilloma) is diagnosed with:

SLIDESHOW

Skin Cancer Symptoms, Types, Images See Slideshow

What Is the Treatment for Papillomas?

Most papillomas are benign and do not need to be treated. Some papillomas go away on their own. 

Treatment of skin papillomas (warts, plantar warts, or genital warts) includes: 

  • Salicylic acid gels, ointments, or pads available over-the-counter (OTC)
  • Cryotherapy (freezes the wart; some products are available OTC and some are prescription)
  • Cantharidin
  • Electrosurgery and curettage
  • Excision
  • Laser treatment
  • Chemical peels
  • Bleomycin
  • Immunotherapy

Treatment for papillomas in the female breast duct (intraductal papillomas) usually involves surgical removal of the papilloma. 

Treatment of papilloma in the voice box (larynx) (laryngeal papilloma) involves a laryngoscopy with surgical removal using the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser. A tracheotomy may be needed in severe cases. 

Treatment of papilloma in the sinuses (inverted papilloma) includes surgical removal of the papilloma.

What Are Complications of Papillomas?

Most papillomas are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV can cause certain cancers of the: 

  • Cervix
  • Vulva
  • Vagina
  • Penis
  • Anus
  • Oropharyngeal area (the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils)

How Do You Prevent Papillomas?

To prevent getting the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes most papillomas: 

  • Get vaccinated for HPV
    • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the HPV vaccine for children age 11 or 12 years (or can start at age 9 years) and for everyone through age 26 years, if not vaccinated already
  • Practice safe sex
    • Use latex condoms every time you have sex
    • Be in a mutually monogamous relationship

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Reviewed on 12/29/2020
References
http://papillomas.org/

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/dermoscopy-of-mucosal-lesions

https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/warts-overview

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/non-cancerous-breast-conditions/intraductal-papillomas.html

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/anogenital-warts-the-basics

http://www.ucdvoice.org/laryngeal-papilloma-2/

http://www.sinustumor.org/tumor/inverted-papilloma/

https://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm