Human papillomavirus (HPV), once almost exclusively associated with cancer of the cervix, is now linked to head and neck cancer. According to a new University at Buffalo (NY) study just published in the Archives of Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery, gum disease is associated with increased odds of tumors being HPV-positive. The study evaluated data from 124 patients diagnosed with primary head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) between 1999 and 2007. The aim of the study was to test the presence of periodontitis, a persistent inflammatory process and HPV-status of HNSCC.
Of the 124 tumor samples studied, 50 were positive for HPV-16 DNA and subjects with HPV-positive tumors had a significantly higher severity of periodontitis when compared to subjects with HPV-negative tumors. According to the National Cancer Institute, there has been a steady increase in the prevalence of oropharyngeal cancers in the United States since 1973 despite the significant decline in tobacco use since 1965. This increase has mainly been attributed to oral HPV infection. In the study, dental decay was not significantly linked to tumor-HPV status. The fact that only periodontitis was associated with tumor-HPV status points to the potential association of inflammation with this status. The next step in this research will be intervention studies to test whether treating the sources of inflammation, like gum disease, can reduce the acquisition and/or persistence of oral HPV infection and improve the prognosis of HPV-related diseases.
(Source: University at Buffalo, June 20, 2012)