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Head Neck. 2000 Oct;22(7):649-57.

Human papillomavirus infection in "young" versus "old" patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

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Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, The University of Michigan, 1904 Taubman Center, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.



Human papillomavirus (HPV) represents a potential risk factor for squamous cell cancer of the head and neck (SCCHN). We evaluated the prevalence of HPV DNA in patients with SCCHN diagnosed at the University of Michigan from 1994-1996.


Patients were stratified by age at diagnosis as "young" (<50 years; median, 39) or "old" (>50 years; median, 66). Fourteen "young" and 14 "old" were matched for tumor site, and 4 additional "old" patients were included. Specimens were analyzed by polymerase chain reaction for HPV DNA using 2 sets of consensus primers. HPV sequences were confirmed by Southern blot hybridization and typed with type-specific probes.


Overall, 15 of 32 (46.9%) samples contained HPV sequences. HPV 16 was detected in 9 of 15 (60%), HPV-18 in 1 of 15 (6.6%), and 5 of 15 (33.3%) remained untyped by multiple methods. When stratified, 7 of 14 (50%) "young" were HPV-positive compared with 8 of 18 (44.4%) "old" (p =.76). Survival in patients with HPV-positive SCCHN was significantly longer than that for HPV-negative patients.


The incidence of HPV in "young" versus "old" is not significantly different, suggesting similar roles for both groups. Patients with HPV-positive tumors may have a survival advantage relative to patients with HPV-negative tumors.

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