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Most HPV infections of the cervix are cleared rapidly by the immune system and do not progress to cervical cancer (see below the Clearance subsection in Virology).Because the process of transforming normal cervical cells into cancerous ones is slow, cancer occurs in people having been infected with HPV for a long time, usually over a decade or more (persistent infection).
Some of the "early genes" carried by the HPV virus, such as genes E6 and E7, act as oncogenes that promote tumor growth and malignant transformation.The International Agency for Research on Cancer has found that people with lung cancer were significantly more likely to have several high-risk forms of HPV antibodies compared to those who did not have lung cancer.Researchers looking for HPV among 1,633 lung cancer patients and 2,729 people without the lung disease found that people with lung cancer had more types of HPV than noncancer patients did, and among lung cancer patients, the chances of having eight types of serious HPV were significantly increased.Furthermore, HPV can induce a tumorigenic process through integration into a host genome which is associated with alterations in DNA copy number.E6 produces a protein (also called E6) that binds to and inactivates a protein in the host cell called p53.Such infections are associated with genital or anal warts (medically known as condylomata acuminata or venereal warts), and these warts are the most easily recognized sign of genital HPV infection.
The strains of HPV that can cause genital warts are usually different from those that cause warts on other parts of the body, such as the hands or feet, or even the inner thighs.Studies have also shown a link between a wide range of HPV types and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.In such cases, in vitro studies suggest that the E6 protein of the HPV virus may inhibit apoptosis induced by ultraviolet light.In short, p53 is a tumor-suppressor protein that arrests the cell cycle and prevents cell growth and survival when DNA damage occurs.Thus, inactivation of p53 by E6 can promote unregulated cell division, cell growth, and cell survival, characteristics of cancer.In the United States, HPV is expected to replace tobacco as the main causal agent for oral cancer, and the number of newly diagnosed, HPV-associated head and neck cancers is expected to surpass that of cervical cancer cases by 2020.