Laboratory tests have a key role in preventing human papillomavirus (HPV)–driven carcinomas and in guiding therapeutic interventions. An understanding of the virology, immunology, and carcinogenesis of HPV is essential for choosing appropriate diagnostic test modalities and developing new and even more effective cancer prevention strategies. HPV infects basal epithelial cells on multiple surfaces and induces carcinoma primarily in the cervix and the oropharynx. HPV types are stratified as high risk or low risk based on their carcinogenic potential. During oncogenesis, HPV interferes with cell cycle regulation and incites DNA damage responses that thwart apoptosis and enable mutations to accumulate. Such mutations are an adverse effect of innate and adaptive antiviral immune responses that up-regulate DNA-editing enzymes, with natural selection of cells having a chromosomally integrated viral genome lacking expression of viral proteins targeted by the immune system. Infected cancers share a similar mutation signature, reflecting the effect of apolipoprotein B mRNA-editing catalytic polypeptide enzyme DNA-editing enzymes. It is feasible that genomic tests for characteristic mutations or methylation signatures, along with tests for dysregulated HPV gene expression, add value in predicting behavior of premalignant lesions. Furthermore, these tumor markers in cell-free DNA of plasma or body fluids may one day assist in early detection or monitoring cancer burden during treatment.