Is there a link between cervical dysplasia and HPV?

John Han-Chih Chang, MD and Kenneth Blank, MD
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Dear OncoLink "Ask the Experts,"
If a woman is diagnosed with cervical dysplasia, does that mean she also has a HPV (Human Papilloma virus) infection? Or are those two things separate from one another?  
Thank you for your time.

John Han-Chih Chang, MD and Kenneth Blank, MD, OncoLink Editorial Assistants, respond:

Dear D.H.,
Thank you for your interest and question.

Dysplasia means abnormality in cellular growth and development, and it is often used to refer to the morphologic alterations that characterize intraepithelial neoplasia (in the cervix, it is termed CIN). Abnormal nuclear shape and function within a cell, along with aberrant maturation, yields this microscopic diagnosis. In cervical cancer, CIN is considered a precursor to invasive cancer. The progression rate of low grade CIN to in-situ or noninvasive cancer is reported to be around 15% - 20%. The time to progression can be anywhere from 1 - 7 years depending on the grade of the CIN. CIN can remain dormant and even regress spontaneously without treatment in some patients. Causes of CIN are various, but they mainly are the result of some type of irritative agent of the epithelium. HPV is such an agent.

HPV or human papilloma virus is a sexually transmitted disease of the anogenital tract. It is the cause of anal or genital warts. It has a high propensity to cause CIN in women. Not all HPV infections cause CIN, though.

Thus, cervical dysplasia or CIN can be the result of HPV, but not all CIN is HPV-related and not all HPV infections cause CIN.