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J Invest Dermatol. 2004 Aug;123(2):388-94.

High prevalence of cutaneous human papillomavirus DNA on the top of skin tumors but not in "Stripped" biopsies from the same tumors.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology, Malmö University Hospital, Lund University, Malmö, Sweden.


Genomes of human papillomaviruses (HPV) are common in biopsies from non-melanoma skin cancers but are also found on healthy skin and it is possible that HPV positivity in tumor biopsies by PCR may merely reflect contamination of the lesion surface. To investigate this issue, 229 immunocompetent patients were tested for HPV DNA in swab samples collected on top of skin tumors and in biopsies of the same tumors, obtained after stripping with tape to remove superficial layers. HPV DNA was detected on top of 69% (159 of 229) of the lesions, and in 12% (28 of 229) of the stripped biopsies (p<0.001). The difference was seen for all four types of tumors studied. Seborrheic keratosis had 79% (34 of 43) HPV positivity on top of lesions versus 19% (eight of 43) in biopsies; actinic keratosis had 83% (38 of 46) HPV positivity on top versus 11% (five of 46) in biopsies; basal cell carcinoma had 63% (69 of 109) on top versus 8% (nine of 109) in biopsies and squamous cell carcinoma had 58% (18 of 31) on top versus 19% (six of 31) in biopsies. HPV DNA is common in superficial layers of lesions, but is not necessarily present throughout tumors.

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