A newly published study links the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, or HPV, to lung cancer, adding lungs to the list of organs scientists say are susceptible to cancer as a result of contracting the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
Recent studies have found connections between HPV and cancers of the mouth and throat, but the University of Louisville study released late last week is the first to associate the infection with lung cancer.
HPV has long been known to result in cancers of the sex organs, particularly the cervix, and a vaccine targeting young women and girls was introduced in the United States in 2006.
Conservative parents and activists have condemned the vaccine, marketed under the name Gardasil, since it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year, claiming it would — like easily available condoms — encourage young people to engage in promiscuous sex.
In another paper, Israeli researchers suggest that measles virus may also be a factor in some lung cancers. Their study included 65 patients with non-small-cell lung cancer, of whom more than half had evidence of measles virus in tissue samples taken from their cancer.
“Measles virus is a ubiquitous human virus that may be involved in the pathogenesis of lung cancer,” says lead author Prof. Samuel Ariad from Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva, Israel. “Most likely, it acts in modifying the effect of other carcinogens and not as a causative factor by itself.”
This concept is not new. There was a Taiwanese study that showed that the odds ratio for getting lung cancer from HPV at over ten.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Taiwanese women since 1982. High lung cancer mortality ratio of male:female in Taiwan (2:1) was observed, although less than 10% of female lung cancer patients are smokers. Until now, the etiological factor remains unknown. We hypothesize that high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) 16/18 may be associated with lung cancer development based on high prevalence of p53 negative immunostainings in female lung tumors compared with that of male lung tumors. In this study, 141 lung cancer patients and 60 noncancer control subjects were enrolled to examine whether HPV 16/18 DNA existed in lung tumor and normal tissues by nested PCR and in situ hybridization (ISH), respectively. The concordant detection of HPV 16 and 18 DNA between nested PCR and ISH method was 73 and 85.5%, respectively. Our data showed that 77 (54.6%) of 141 lung tumors had HPV 16/18 DNA compared with 16 (26.7%; P = 0.0005) of 60 noncancer control subjects. In addition, ISH data showed that HPV 16/18 DNA was uniformly located in lung tumor cells, but not in the adjacent nontumor cells. When study subjects were stratified by gender, age, and smoking status, nonsmoking female lung cancer patients who were older than 60 years old had significantly high prevalence of HPV 16/18 infection. The odds ratio of HPV 16/18 infection of nonsmoking female lung cancer patients is much higher at 10.12 (95% confidence interval, 3.88–26.38) compared with 1.98 (95% confidence interval, 0.84–4.76) of nonsmoking male lung cancer patients. This result strongly suggests that HPV infection is associated with lung cancer development of nonsmoking female lung cancer patients. The high prevalence of HPV 16/18 infection may explain to a certain extent why Taiwanese women nonsmokers had a higher lung cancer mortality rate.
More info here.To show the frequency of HPV related cancer all you have to do is look at oral cancer.
Previous research by Gillison and others established HPV as a primary cause of the estimated 5,600 cancers that occur each year in the tonsils, lower tongue and upper throat. It’s also been known that the virus’ role in such cancers has been rising.
The new study looked at more than 30 years of National Cancer Institute data on oral cancers. Researchers categorized about 46,000 cases, using a formula to divide them into those caused by HPV and those not connected to the virus.
They concluded the incidence rates for HPV-related oral cancers rose steadily in men from 1973 to 2004, becoming about as common as those from tobacco and alcohol.
The good news is that survival rates for the cancer are also increasing. That’s because tumors caused by HPV respond better to chemotherapy and radiation, Gillison said.
“If current trends continue, within the next 10 years there may be more oral cancers in the United States caused by HPV than tobacco or alcohol,” Gillison said.