Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) types called beta HPVs may be associated with an increased risk of developing a major type of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), according to a new study in the March 15 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
In addition, the presence of antibodies to multiple types of HPV was associated with the highest risk of SCC, but the association had limited statistical precision.
Infection with HPV types from the genus alpha, which includes HPV 16, has been associated with other epithelial cancers such as cervical cancer. Genus beta HPVs, which includes HPV types 5 and 8, have been detected in skin tumors, and previous studies suggest they may play a role in the development of these cancers.
Margaret R. Karagas, Ph.D., of Dartmouth Medical School and Norris Cotton Cancer Center, and colleagues searched for antibodies to 16 different HPV types in plasma samples from 252 patients with SCC, 525 patients with basal cell carcinomas (BCC), and 461 control subjects.
The authors detected genus beta type HPV antibodies in patients diagnosed with SCC more frequently than in control subjects, particularly HPV 5, but no difference was found in the presence of HPV antibodies in patients with BCC than in control subjects.
The authors write, "Although sun exposure and sun sensitivity are the major risk factors for [skin] cancers, our data support a role of HPV, particularly beta HPVs, in the development of SCC."
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Contact: Ariel Whitworth
Journal of the National Cancer Institute
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