HPV for the oral surgeon

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The role of HPV (human papilloma virus) in cervical cancer and its sexual mode of transmission have made this virus an emotive and widely discussed topic. There has been significant confusion and a number of misleading articles in the media regarding the role of HPV in cancers at other sites. This article reviews the role of HPV in pathologies of the oral cavity and oropharynx.

Materials and methods

The literature is reviewed together with current trials and vaccination programmes.

Results and conclusion

High-risk HPV types are associated with more than 50% of squamous cell carcinomas affecting the oropharynx, specifically the tonsils and tongue base. In contrast, results regarding oral squamous cell carcinoma have been variable but emerging data indicate that less than 6% are HPV associated. Within the oral cavity, the most common expression of HPV infection is the benign squamous papilloma associated with low-risk types.

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