Human Papillomavirus DNA Test
Updated on March 18, 2024
Back to top
back to top icon
DNA Testing
Human Papillomavirus DNA Test

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.1 An HPV DNA test can detect if a person has this virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 79 million Americans have at least one type of HPV.2 Some strains of the virus increase the risk of serious health issues, including genital warts and cervical cancer.2

Human Papillomavirus DNA Test 6

Women over 30 with atypical squamous cells receive this test in their Pap test results.

There is no test available for men, but men can have high-risk HPV and pass the virus to their partners through oral, vaginal, or anal sex.3 High-risk HPV can be transmitted even if you have no symptoms of the virus.

Any sexually active person is at risk of getting HPV. In some cases, symptoms do not develop for years after infection.

Because HPV can also be spread via skin-to-skin contact, mothers infected with HPV can pass the virus to their children when they give birth to them. So while it’s not a hereditary disease, you can still give it to family. 

HPV Linked to Genital Warts and Cancer

For many people, HPV resolves on their own. Some people never even know they have the virus. Health risks arise when the virus does not go away. The most common first indication someone has HPV is the development of genital warts.

HPV is also linked to cancer.4

The most common type of cancer caused by HPV is cervical cancer.4 Additionally, it is linked to cancer of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus, and throat.4 The presence of genital warts does not increase a person’s risk of cancer. The type of HPV linked to cancer is different than the type linked to cancer.

It’s impossible to detect whether or not someone will eventually develop cancer when they have HPV. There is evidence that people with compromised immune systems have a higher risk of developing health concerns once they contract HPV.

Human Papillomavirus DNA Test 7

Does a Positive HPV Test Mean I Have Cancer?

No, but it can mean your risk of developing cancer is greater.

To determine your risk factors for developing cervical cancer, your doctor will evaluate your past test results and your current HPV DNA test results. A positive test helps you undergo a more stringent evaluation and, if necessary, pre-cancer treatment.

You and your doctor should discuss your test results and, based on your situation, determine the best follow-up evaluation and treatment.

HPV testing is similar to the Pap test. Your doctor takes samples of your cervical cells and submits them for testing. Getting a sample of cells is painless for nearly everyone, but there might be some pressure from the insertion of the speculum that exposes the cervix.

There are no restrictions after the test. You can go about your usual routine and activities. 

Know Your DNA Reviews

Best DNA Kit

Don't miss out on the opportunity to learn more about yourself. Read our best DNA test page to find the best one for you.

What Should I Do If I Have a Positive HPV DNA Test?

There are several things you can do after a positive HPV test.

You and your doctor will discuss your case’s best course of action to confirm your positive result and determine how severe the infection is and if there are any other risks or co-morbidities involved.

The most common responses include:

  • Colposcopy – A magnified examination of the cervix
  • Biopsy – Samples of cervical cells are examined for abnormalities or cancer 
  • Removal of abnormal cells – Affected tissue is removed before it can develop into cancerous cells
  • Cryotherapy – Freezing of abnormal tissue
  • Cone biopsy – Removes part of the cervix
  • Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) – removes cells using an electrical wire loop device

It’s also common for people with abnormal test results to receive a referral to a doctor who specializes in gynecological cancers. This ensures you get the best evaluation and treatment available.

Human Papillomavirus DNA Test 8

How Do I Avoid Contracting the Human Papillomavirus?

The best way to avoid contracting HPV is to abstain from sexual activity.

If you are sexually active, use condoms and limit activity to one partner. Condoms are not 100% effective for preventing the spread of HPV, but they reduce your risk. 

Cervical cancer screening tests are also important for women aged 21 to 65 because they prevent or allow early intervention and treatment should cancer cells develop.5 It’s also important to get screening done in case you are pregnant or planning to conceive.

HPV vaccination is available. The vaccine protects recipients against complications linked to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the HPV vaccine for boys and girls aged 11 to 26.6 Some people get the vaccine after age 26, but it is less effective for older recipients.

Human Papillomavirus DNA Test 9

There is no test to determine someone’s HPV “status.” 

Cervical cancer screenings are available for women aged 30 and older. There is no screening method for men. This means that men can have HPV for years without realizing it. Some never realize they have it unless they pass it on to a partner.

There is also no treatment for HPV. However, treatment is available for the complications linked to HPV.

There is a test that evaluates a person’s risk level for HPV. The test looks for pieces of DNA in cervical cells and tells someone if they have a higher risk strain of the virus.

This test is available as a primary HPV test or during a Pap test as a co-test. Your healthcare provider will discuss with you which of these tests is most appropriate for you.

Both of these tests are effective for finding cancer and pre-cancer cells. The primary test is better at preventing cervical cancer than a traditional Pap test. Regardless of which test you use, regular screenings for cervical cancer are important.

Interpreting the Results of an HPV DNA Test

A positive HPV test result means you have a higher risk strain of the HPV virus.

A positive test does not mean you have cervical cancer, but it does mean you are more likely to develop cervical cancer. This allows you and your doctor to take a more aggressive approach to cancer screening.

A negative HPV test means you don’t have a strain of the virus associated with cervical cancer. You might still have HPV, but it’s a lower-risk strain of the virus.

What are the Risks of the Human Papillomavirus DNA Test?

The risk of undergoing the HPV DNA test is getting a false or misleading result.

A false-positive test indicates a high risk of developing cancer when you do not have an increased risk. In this case, you face unnecessary follow-up procedures.

Your doctor might unnecessarily order a biopsy or colposcopy.

A false-negative test indicates you don’t have an HPV infection when you do. A false-positive delays important follow-up procedures and treatment. It also puts you at risk of unknowingly spreading the virus.

Human Papillomavirus DNA Test 10

Does HPV Cause Infertility?

In most cases, an HPV infection does not lead directly to infertility. However, it can be a threat to reproductive health.7

Depending on the severity of the illness and the treatments needed, fertility can become a major concern. For some, treatment might make it difficult to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term. Others may face the risk of passing the virus on to their child.

Cell removal changes your cervical mucus production.

There is also a risk of stenosis, which is the narrowing of the opening of the cervix. In this case, sperm has a harder time reaching and fertilizing an egg. Some treatments also weaken the cervix. A weakened cervix puts you at risk of early-term delivery.

Know Your DNA Reviews

The Best DNA Test

Looking for a DNA test that's accurate and can tell you about your health and heritage?

Updated on March 18, 2024
Minus IconPlus Icon
7 sources cited
Updated on March 18, 2024
  1. 1) “Human Papillomavirus (HPV).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  2. 2) “Genital HPV Infection – CDC Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  3. 3) “HPV and Men – Fact Sheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  4. 4) “Human Papillomavirus and Cancer.” World Health Organization.

  5. 5) “Benefits | Cervical Cancer Interventions.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  6. 6) “HPV Vaccination Recommendations.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  7. 7) “‘Does HPV Affect My Fertility?’ Reproductive Concerns of HPV-Positive Women: A Qualitative Study.” National Library of Medicine.

Kelly Brown
Kelly Brown
Content Contributor
Kelly has experience working with clients in a variety of industries, including legal, medical, marketing, and travel. Her goal is to share important information that people can use to make decisions about their health and the health of their loved ones. From choosing the best treatment programs to improving dental and vision health to finding the best method for helping anyone who is struggling with health issues, she hopes to share what she learns through informative content.