Is HPV Hereditary?

Busting a popular myth about your risk of contracting HPV

Human Papilloma Virus
Human papilloma virus (HPV), colored transmission electron micrograph (TEM). Science Photo Library/PASIEKA/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus. There are currently over 100 known strains of HPV, which are all spread through skin-to-skin contact. This means that penetration is not required to contract the virus, though vaginal and anal intercourse are also methods of HPV transmission. You can also contract HPV via oral sex, though this is less common.

Human papillomavirus is generally asymptomatic, though some people who contract certain strains of HPV can develop genital warts. Because there are no symptoms, a regular Pap smear is essential for detecting any abnormal cervical changes caused by HPV in women.

Is HPV Hereditary?

The simple answer is no. HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact and is not transmitted through genetics. This means that even if your biological mom and dad have HPV, you are not destined to have it because of your inherited genes.

While HPV is not hereditary, meaning it is not genetically passed from parent to child, it can be passed from mother to child during childbirth. However, this is a rare occurrence.

How Can I Prevent Human Papillomavirus?

Human papillomavirus is a very common virus. It is estimated that over 20 million Americans are infected with HPV, many of whom show no symptoms, making it the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI).

The only guaranteed means of preventing HPV is through absolute abstinence from all sexual contact, but for most adults, this is an unrealistic prevention strategy.

HPV is particularly difficult to prevent because no penetration is needed to transmit the virus, only certain types of skin-to-skin contact.

While research has shown that that proper use of condoms does provide some protection against human papillomavirus during penetration, there is still a risk of transmission because parts of the genitalia remain exposed.

The FDA-approved HPV vaccine, Gardasil, is also a method of preventing HPV for those who fit the criteria of the ideal candidate. The vaccine has been proven effective against four strains of HPV known to cause cervical cancer and genital warts in women. In men and women, it has been proven to protect against HPV-related cases of anal cancer.

Getting vaccinated against HPV, limiting the number of sexual partners you have in your lifetime, and using a condom each time you have sex are all excellent ways to reduce your risk of contracting HPV.

Further Reading About HPV

Interesting Facts About HPV—Top 5 Things You Didn't Know. Here is some more information about what most people don't, but should, know about HPV.

How to Prevent and Reduce Your Risk of HPV. Currently, there are only two HPV proven prevention methods: abstinence and the HPV vaccine. There are other ways to help reduce your risk of developing HPV. Read more here.

HPV Symptoms. There are over 100 different strains of HPV, and about 30 of these strains affect both male and female genitalia, causing conditions like genital warts and, more seriously, cancer.

Are HPV and Genital Warts the Same Thing? Yes and no. HPV is a term used to encompass over 100 different strains of the human papillomavirus. Some of these strains cause genital warts and some are known to cause cervical cancer. Learn more here.


"Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Genital Warts." June 2006. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.