Understanding Human Papillomavirus: Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection spread through skin-to-skin contact. Roughly 79 million Americans have HPV, making it the most common STI in the United States.

With over 100 different types of HPV, most sexually active men and women will contract the infection at some point in their lives. However, not everyone will develop symptoms. HPV can be asymptomatic and in many cases people are unaware anything is wrong. However, certain types of the infection can cause HPV-related cancer and diseases such as genital warts.

90 percent of genital warts cases are caused by strains HPV 6 and 11. While genital warts are not a life threatening condition, they can cause discomfort and embarrassment in patients. Fortunately, there are treatment options available to remove genital warts.

Roughly 40 types of HPV are considered high risk and may cause more serious health complications. HPV is responsible for most cervical cancers, as well as vaginal, vulvar, anal, rectum, penile, and oropharynx cancer.

While there is no known cure for HPV, you can lower your risk of infection by following these simple steps. Here are five ways to prevent HPV:

Understanding Human Papillomavirus- Prevention Tip #1: Get Vaccinated

The Food and Drug Administration has approved three HPV vaccines: Cervarix, Gardasil, and Gardasil 9. The vaccine is usually given in three doses over the course of a six-month period. If a person is under the age of 15, only two doses are needed for the vaccine to be effective. It is recommended a person receive the vaccine well before they engage in sexual activity. Today, children as young as 11 and 12 years old are encouraged to get the vaccine.

Understanding Human Papillomavirus- Prevention Tip #2: Limit Sexual Partners

By limiting the number of sexual partners you have, you can significantly reduce the risk of contracting different strains of the virus. While it is possible for a couple involved in a long-term monogamous relationship to develop HPV, the chances of being infected with a new strain of the virus are much lower.

Understanding Human Papillomavirus- Prevention Tip #3: Practice Safe Sex

Seeing as HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, we know that condoms cannot fully prevent the transmission of HPV. However, studies do suggest that condoms do help lower the rate of infection. The risk of women developing HPV was cut by 70 percent if their sexual partner wore a condom every time they engaged in sexual intercourse. Consider using protection to lower your risk of contracting or passing on HPV.