Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are prevalent pathogens of mucosal and cutaneous epithelia. Productive infections of squamous epithelia lead to benign hyperproliferative warts, condylomata, or papillomas. Persistent infections of the anogenital mucosa by high-risk HPV genotypes 16 and 18 and closely related types can infrequently progress to highgrade intraepithelial neoplasias, carcinomas-in-situ, and invasive cancers in women and men. HPV-16 is also associated with a fraction of head and neck cancers. We discuss the interactions of the mucosotropic HPVs with the host regulatory proteins and pathways that lead to benign coexistence and enable HPV DNA amplification or, alternatively, to cancers that no longer support viral production. © 2013 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; all rights reserved.