So I'm sure you're sick of me talking about HPV, the STI that can cause genital warts and certain types of cervical cancer, but I'm not finished yet. There's also another type of HPV you should know about — anal HPV — that's just as common as cervical HPV.
No, anal HPV isn't only contracted through anal sex, although women who engage in this act are definitely more at risk, but so are women who are young, white, with lower levels of education and income, and a history of having multiple sexual partners. It can also be passed through sexual play (by using fingers or sharing sex toys). It's thought that oral sex may also transmit anal HPV, although doctors unfortunately aren't clear about all the ways it can be transmitted.
Why is anal HPV something to watch out for? To find out
The thing to know is that anal HPV can lead to anal cancer. Although this is rare, more than 4,600 are diagnosed with anal cancer in the US each year and nearly 700 people die from it.
Dear's Advice: Doctors are not urging women to get anal Pap tests (phew), so the best thing you can do is to be sure you use protection when you engage in any type of sexual activity. Since many women have no symptoms and don't even know they have HPV, be sure to get tested regularly. If you're not in a committed relationship with one person, you may want to think about getting the Gardasil vaccine. It won't protect you from all types of HPV, but at least you'll be protected against the four types that are linked to 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts. Doctors think that this vaccine may also help protect against anal HPV.