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Int J Cancer. 2002 Feb 1;97(4):536-41.

Burning wood in the kitchen increases the risk of cervical neoplasia in HPV-infected women in Honduras.

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Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.


There is suggestive evidence that the use of wood for cooking increases the risk of invasive cervical cancer. We investigated this association in women with cervical neoplasia in Honduras. Women aged 20-64 years with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) grade I (n = 44), CIN II (n = 36) or CIN III (n = 45) were recruited from screening programs in Tegucigalpa City and each was matched by age and clinic to 2 controls (241 total) without cervical abnormalities. The clinics selected women of low socioeconomic status. Cervical scrapes were tested for the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA using a general primer set directed against the L1 open reading frame, and HPV genotyping was performed. Odds ratios (ORs) were computed through conditional logistic regression; p-values were from tests for linear trend of risk with increasing exposure. HPV DNA was detected in 48% of women with CIN I, 67% with CIN II and 89% with CIN III. The ORs were 1.5, 2.5 and 38.3 respectively. At univariate analysis, age at first intercourse was consistently lower among cases than controls. Risk was reduced by 50% or more in all 3 CIN classes when initiation of sexual activity at age 20 years or older was compared with initiation before age 16 years (p = 0.013 for CIN I). No effect was observed for smoking, oral contraceptives or previous cytologic screening. Effects for number of sexual partners, parity, age at first pregnancy and education were in the expected directions but never persisted after adjustment for HPV. Chronic exposure to wood smoke significantly increased the risk of CIN III (p = 0.022). However, women who said "No" when asked if they ever used wood in the kitchen had a higher risk than those with low or intermediate exposure. This was taken as evidence that the initial screening question had either been misunderstood or that answers were biased. Restricting the analysis to women who reported exposure yielded positive associations in all CIN classes with for CIN III ORs of 2.3 for 25-34 and 9.5 for 35+ years compared with women who had 1-14 years of exposure (p = 0.017). A multivariate analysis of the complete dataset (n = 366) allowed for separate ORs for HPV in each CIN class. Inclusion of age at first intercourse significantly improved this model (p = 0.021). Adding exposure to wood smoke further improved the model only if an interaction between woodsmoke and HPV was allowed for. If, as the data suggest, it was assumed that wood smoke had its effect among HPV-positives only, there was a significant linear dose-response relationship between exposure to woodsmoke and risk of CIN (p = 0.026). This association was independent of other risk factors including education, parity and number of sexual partners. ORs in the final model were 0.37 for age at first intercourse 20 years or higher and 5.69 for more than 35 years of exposure to wood burning in the kitchen. The present study suggests that the use of wood for cooking is a risk factor for cervical neoplasia that deserves further study, given its high prevalence in developing countries.

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