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What Is It?

Genital warts are warts that form on the skin of the genital area. They are caused by certain subtypes of the human papilloma virus (HPV), the same virus that causes warts on other areas of the body. Genital warts are spread through sexual intercourse, so they are classified as a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and can affect both men and women. Genital warts also are known as condyloma acuminata or venereal warts. They can develop anywhere near the vagina, cervix, genitals or rectum.

Because genital warts can take six months to develop, you can have the infection without having any symptoms. Human papilloma virus also causes virtually all cases of cervical cancer worldwide. The subtypes that are most likely to cause cancer are different from those that usually cause warts. However, many people are infected with more than one subtype. Therefore, people with genital warts are more likely to be infected with a cancer-causing virus as well.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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