Infection is very common in the population but cancers are relatively rare. Our defence (immune system) usually prevails and we only get a temporary inflammation of the epithelium, which is suppressed within two years.
Studies of carcinogenesis in the uterine cervix have proven that an increased likelihood for premalignant lesions and cancer is seen only in cases of persistent or recurring inflammation caused by high-risk HPVs .
In about 10% of women, infection by carcinogenic HPVs cannot be suppressed by their immune system. This small group is at a higher risk of developing premalignant lesions and cancer in the future. High-risk ongogenic HPV types are able to integrate into the DNA of the cell and modify its behaviour in a way that can result in cancer.