By: Janis C. Kelly
21 October 2010
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a risk factor for oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), and might account for the steady increase in OSCC incidence, even in subjects who do not smoke or consume alcohol, according to Swedish researchers.
A review of recent studies, conducted by Trobjorn Ramqvist, MD, and Tina Dalianis, MD, PhD, and published online October 13 in Emerging Infectious Diseases, suggests that changes in sexual practices are behind the surge in OSCC cases linked to sexually transmitted HPV. The key factors appear to be multiple sex partners, starting sexual activity at a younger age, and increased oral sex.
The data are startling. For example, from 1970 to 2002, tonsillar cancer (which is the most common OSCC) increased in Stockholm, Sweden, by 2.8-fold, and by 2006/07, 93% of all tonsillar cancers in that city were HPV-positive.
Dr. Dalianis, who is professor of tumor virology and the head of the Department of Oncology-Pathology at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, told Medscape Medical News that “we realized that there was an increase in HPV-induced tonsillar cancer, but we did not realize it was so eminent until we separated the 2 groups (HPV-negative and -positive tonsillar cancer cases) the way we did.”
The most common OSCC is tonsillar cancer, followed by base of tongue cancer. Overall 5-year survival for OSCC is about 25%, and HPV-positive OSCC generally has better clinical outcomes than HPV-negative disease.
Dr. Dalianis said that HPV (most commonly type 16) was found in 45% to 100% of OSCCs in various studies.
(Note from SaneVax: Keep in mind that according to the National Cancer Institute, although HPV is present in many types of cancer, no direct causal link has been scientifically established. We would also like to know exactly what constitutes a ‘slow epidemic?’)