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Ann Oncol. 2010 Oct;21 Suppl 7:vii243-5. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdq454.

The role of human papillomavirus infection in head and neck cancers.

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Department of Oral Pathology, Institute of Dentistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Turku, Finland.


The link between head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC), especially oropharyngeal cancer, and HPV has become established. HPV16 is the most common genotype in these tumours but HPV6 and HPV11 can also be found in a minority of these cancers, implying that these low-risk HPV types are not entirely benign in the head and neck region. HPV status is also associated with p16 expression and HPV+ tumours are less likely to harbour p53 mutations. HPV DNA is closely associated with poorly differentiated cancers, positive lymph nodes and late-stage disease, which all indicate poor prognosis. Contradictory to this, patients with HPV+ HNSCC seem to have significantly improved response to chemotherapy and radiotherapy as compared with HPV-negative tumours. Interestingly, the risk factors of HNSCC are the same as for HPV, including the number of sexual partners, younger age at first sexual intercourse, practice of oral sex, history of genital warts and younger age.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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