Yet something else that can cause cancer

Micrograph of an adenosquamous carcinoma. Uter...

Cervical carcinoma, H&E stain--Image via Wikipedia

I have to admit that I am not surprised by the findings of a recent publication from the Journal of Clinical Oncology, but I was a bit hesitant to put it up on the Micro blog. The vaccine Gardisil has widespread use in the United States, and provides effective protection in women for Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV.  This virus is significantly associated with many cases of cervical cancer, which in turn claims the lives of thousands of women annually. HPV itself, at least among the unimmunized, is a pretty prevalent virus, and in many cases can be asymptomatic or cause mild genital warts.

The study from the National Cancer Institute was a 25 year retrospective analysis of almost 300 oropharyngial (throat) cancers, and the association of HPV with these tumors. The study focused on the HPV prevalence in tumors from 1984-1989 in comparison to 2000-2004, and found that the incidence of HPV infection in these tumors increased 225% over that time period. The authors further suggest that

if recent incidence trends continue, the annual number of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers [which affect mainly men] is expected to surpass the annual number of cervical cancers by the year 2020.

Fortunately, there is a push in the US to extend HPV vaccination to both genders, which will have the effect of further preventing this worrisome trend. Maura Gillison, the lead author of the study was quoted on io9.com  as saying: “The burden of cancer caused by HPV is going to shift from women to men in this decade.  What we believe is happening is that the number of sexual partners and exposure to HPV has risen over that same time period.”  To put these figures into perspective, there are approximately 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer in the US annually, most of those caused by HPV infection, and about twice as many new cases of throat cancer in the same time period. Most of those cases are presumably associated with smoking, however this new study suggests that they may be sexually transmitted frequently today, and that those trends will likely increase.

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About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on October 8, 2011, in Danger danger danger!, Yikes! and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Yet something else that can cause cancer.

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