Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) infect the cutaneous or mucosal epithelia. More than 200 HPV types have been isolated so far, and they are classified phylogenetically as genera and species. Persistent infections by the mucosal high-risk (HR) HPV types from genus alpha have been clearly associated with cancer development of the genital and upper respiratory tracts. The products of two early genes, E6 and E7, are the major HR HPV oncoproteins, being essential in all steps of the carcinogenic process. They exert their functions by interacting with a large number of cellular proteins, including the products of tumour suppressor genes, and altering their properties. Biological and epidemiological data indicate that beta HPV types, together with ultraviolet (UV) radiation, promote non-melanoma skin cancer development. However, in contrast to the HR mucosal HPV types, cutaneous beta HPV types appear to be required only at an early stage of carcinogenesis, facilitating the accumulation of UV-induced DNA mutations. Several findings also suggest that these HPV types and other carcinogens may synergize in the induction of malignancies at different anatomical sites.