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

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Abstract

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 dentistsviaa 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.

What's new?

A new study out of southern India shows that HPV is not the culprit behind the widespread oral cancer in that region. Recently, HPV has been implicated in HNC cases worldwide, and may be responsible for a burgeoning epidemic. Because oral cancer is so prevalent in southern India, the authors wanted to know whether the virus plays a role, especially because an HPV vaccine is available. When they tested for 36 HPV subtypes in oral cancer cases and controls, however, they found no HPV DNA in any of the individuals.

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