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Int J Cancer. 2016 Feb 15;138(4):912-7. doi: 10.1002/ijc.29827. Epub 2015 Sep 14.

No role for human papillomavirus infection in oral cancers in a region in southern India.

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Division of Cancer Epidemiology, Department of Oncology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Division of Oral Health and Society, Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit, INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier, Laval, QC, Canada.
Department of Clinical Virology, Christian Medical College, Vellore, India.
Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Hôpital Notre-Dame Du Centre De Recherche Du Centre Hospitalier De L'université De Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada.
Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, NY.


Oral cancer is a major public health issue in India with ∼ 77,000 new cases and 52,000 deaths yearly. Paan chewing, tobacco and alcohol use are strong risk factors for this cancer in India. Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are also related to a subset of head and neck cancers (HNCs). We examined the association between oral HPV and oral cancer in a sample of Indian subjects participating in a hospital-based case-control study. We recruited incident oral cancer cases (N = 350) and controls frequency-matched by age and sex (N = 371) from two main referral hospitals in Kerala, South India. Sociodemographic and behavioral data were collected by interviews. Epithelial cells were sampled using Oral CDx® brushes from the oral cancer site and the normal mucosa. Detection and genotyping of 36 HPV genotypes were done using a polymerase chain reaction protocol. Data collection procedures were performed by qualified dentists via a detailed protocol with strict quality control, including independent HPV testing in India and Canada. HPV DNA was detected in none of the cases or controls. Associations between oral cancer and risk factors usually associated with HPV infection, such as oral sex and number of lifetime sexual partners, were examined by logistic regression and were not associated with oral cancer. Lack of a role for HPV infection in this study may reflect cultural or religious characteristics specific to this region in India that are not conducive to oral HPV transmission. A nationwide representative prevalence study is needed to investigate HPV prevalence variability among Indian regions.


HPV; India; human papillomavirus; oral cancer; oral squamous cell carcinoma

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