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Oral HPV significantly increases chance of head, neck cancer

The study indicates a bigger role in increasing risk for cancer than was previously known, researchers said.

By Stephen Feller
Oral HPV significantly increases chance of head, neck cancer
Researchers said mouthwash samples can be for HPV to help determine risk for developing head and neck cancers. Photo by Bulin/Shutterstock

BRONX, N.Y., Jan. 21 (UPI) -- The detection of oral HPV significantly increases a person's risk for developing head or neck cancer, according to a new study.

The study identified HPV-16 as a main cause of increased risk, however other types of oral HPV also were linked to an increased risk for cancer -- both of which indicate a bigger role for HPV to cause cancers than previously known.

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Previous studies have shown HPV causes cervical cancer in women and throat cancer in men, leading to increased guidance for the vaccine to be given starting in the early teens before people are expected to be exposed to the virus.

Based on the new study, researchers said mouthwash samples could be used to predict the chance of somebody developing a head or neck cancer, according to a press release.

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For the study, researchers used data on 96,650 cancer-free people who had contributed mouthwash samples in the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort and the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial who were followed up with for an average 3.9 years.

They identified 132 people who developed head or neck cancer during the follow-up period, matching them with 396 controls and analyzing their mouthwash samples for several types of oral HPVs.

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People with HPV-16 detected in their samples were 22 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer than those with no HPV-16 detected. The researchers also found that beta- and gamma-HPVs, normally found on the skin, could be linked to the development of cancer.

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The study is published in JAMA Oncology.

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