HPV Tied to Higher Esophageal Cancer Risk

July 31, 2013

By Kerry Grens

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Jul 31 - A new meta-analysis links infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) to a three-fold greater chance of esophageal cancer.

"This doesn't mean it is present in all (esophageal cancers), but it may be a factor in a certain proportion of cases," said Dr. Surabhi Liyanage, the study's lead author.

According to Dr. Liyanage of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, there's been a lot of debate about the role of HPV in cancer of the esophagus because most studies have been small and difficult to compare.

For their new study, Dr. Liyanage and her colleagues pooled data from 21 studies that compared 1,223 patients with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma to 1,415 controls without cancer.

HPV was found in the esophageal tissue of 35% of cancer patients and 27% of controls.

Taken together, the studies link HPV infection of esophageal tissue to a three-fold greater risk of esophageal cancer, the researchers reported online July 24 in PLoS ONE.

Two vaccines, Cervarix and Gardasil, have been developed to prevent infection with HPV, and some of the paper's authors serve on advisory boards for the companies that make these vaccines.

If HPV indeed causes esophageal cancer - and that remains to be determined - it's possible that the vaccines could help prevent the cancer, Dr. Liyanage said.

U.S. health officials would like for 80% of teenage girls to receive the HPV vaccine, but last week they reported that rates of vaccination appear to be lingering closer to 53% (see Reuters story of July 25, 2013).

Dr. Liyanage said there are also other ways to reduce the risk of developing esophageal cancer, including avoiding smoking and excessive drinking.

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/15s7YV8

PLoS ONE 2013.

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