Geography May be an Independent Risk in HPV Oropharyngeal Cancer Prevalence

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HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer prevalence varies between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, Asia
HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer prevalence varies between Western Europe and Eastern Europe, Asia

HealthDay News — There is geographic variation in the proportion of head and neck cancers attributable to human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a study published online January 8 in Head & Neck.

Hisham Mehanna, PhD, from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and colleagues tested formalin-fixed paraffin embedded diagnostic biopsies for p16 immunohistochemistry and HPV-DNA using validated protocols on samples from 801 patients with head and neck cancer. Participants were recruited prospectively between 2006 and 2011 in four randomized controlled trials.

The researchers found that 21% of patients were positive for both HPV-DNA and p16, detected primarily in oropharyngeal cancer (55%). HPV positivity was found in only 1% of patients with non-oropharyngeal cancer. There were differences in the prevalence of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer between Western Europe and Eastern Europe and Asia (37 versus 6 and 2%, respectively; both P < 0.0001). Tumor site and smoking were also independent determinants of HPV positivity.

"This is the first study to establish geographic variability as an independent risk factor in HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer prevalence, with higher prevalence in Western Europe," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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