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Genital warts are generally harmless. However, more severe health problems will follow from infection with one of the 13 high risk strains of genital HPV. If someone contracts high-risk strains repeatedly, or develops a lingering infection, the long-term damage can prompt precancerous or cancerous tumor growths to form. In women, persistent genital HPV infections are a precursor to both cervical and vaginal cancers. In fact, a person cannot contract these cancers unless they've had genital HPV. Cervical cancer starts out as a collection of precancerous cells, a condition called dysplasia. As the cells multiply, mild dysplasia increases in severity. Left unchecked for several years, dysplasia develops into an early form of cancer called cervical carcinoma in situ, and then cervical cancer.