Warts are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and are spread by skin-to-skin contact. There are various kinds and shapes of warts; one that’s in the genital area is called a Condyloma Acuminata (plural “Condylomata”). The Genital Wart tends to be spread by sex. It has a cauliflower shape head to it. Pictures of various warts:
There are various treatments to get rid of warts, but none are cures. In other words, the wart may disappear, but the virus remains (albeit in smaller quantity) and can be spread. Probably 100% of people on earth have one or another kind of wart.
Genital warts can cause cancer, mainly of the cervix of the uterus (see Diagram – Female Genital System). Cervical cancer can be fully prevented in 2 main ways:
- HPV vaccination, beginning in young teens / tweens
- Papanicolaou (Pap) Tests, which can find and treat early changes in cervical cells before they evolve into cancer (it can also find and treat early cancer, before it spreads)
As such, cervical cancer rates have greatly decreased in the developed world. Unfortunately, they remain quite high in underdeveloped countries, where access to vaccines and Pap screening lacks.
Penile cancer is also caused by HPV, but it’s extremely rare. Anal cancer from HPV, also rare, is caused by anal sex and is mainly seen among patients with HIV (much less so among gay men without HIV). HIV clinics perform anal Pap tests, and treat abnormal cells, but because the cancer is rare, there’s no good data as to whether such strategy helps.
Interestingly, there are many strains of HPV, which fall into two categories: 1) The type you can see (like in the pictures); and 2) The type that doesn’t cause skin changes, although the virus is present. And only strains in the second category cause cancer! So if you have a Genital Wart, it may look nasty, and be a stigma in terms of sex partners, but it won’t cause cancer. However, you never know about the ones you can’t see!