Patients who have the HPV-16 type of human papillomavirus (HPV) in their mouths are 22 times more likely to develop a type of head and neck cancer, according to a study by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine published in JAMA Oncology.
The research comprised nearly 97,000 people taking part in a pair of large, national prospective studies. At the start of each study, participants provided mouthwash samples and were cancer free.
During an average of nearly 4 years of follow-up, 132 cases of head and neck cancer were identified. The study then identified 396 healthy subjects, or 3 controls, for each case.
After collecting mouthwash samples for the cancer cases and the controls, the researchers analyzed them for the presence of several types of oral HPVs. Those with MPV-16 in their mouthwash samples were then found to be 22 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer.
The researchers also associated the presence of other types of oral HPVs with the development of head and neck cancers, indicating a broader role for HPVs in causing these cancers than previously recognized.
Easily collected mouthwash samples, then, may help predict people’s risk for developing head and neck cancers, the researchers concluded. Led by Ilir Agalliu, MD, ScD, and Robert D. Burk, MD, the study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.