, Volume 6, Issue 1 Supplement, pp 16-24
Date: 03 Jul 2012

Epidemiology and Clinical Aspects of HPV in Head and Neck Cancers

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Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is now established as a major etiologic factor for oropharyngeal cancers. Case–control studies conducted around the world show strong and consistent associations of markers of HPV exposure with risk of oropharyngeal cancers (range of odds ratios [OR] for oral oncogenic HPV infections = 3.6–230.0, ORs for HPV16 L1 antibodies = 2.3–182.0, and ORs for HPV16 E6/E7 antibodies = 9.2–231.0. HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers are epidemiologically distinct from HPV-negative ones, and are characterized by younger age at onset, male predominance, and strong association with sexual behaviors. Importantly, HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer patients have substantially improved outcomes (28–80 % reductions in the risk of death) than HPV-negative patients. Given the superior survival, younger age, and good performance status of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer patients, de-intensified therapies are currently being considered for this group of patients. Recent analyses of cancer registry data show dramatic increases in incidence of oropharyngeal cancers during the past 15–20 years in several parts of the world, highlighting the need for prevention strategies. If proven efficacious, currently available prophylactic HPV vaccines hold great promise for primary prevention of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers.