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Original Investigation
May 2016

Associations of Oral α-, β-, and γ-Human Papillomavirus Types With Risk of Incident Head and Neck Cancer

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York
  • 2American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 3Department of Pediatrics (Genetics), Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York
  • 4Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
  • 5Department of Population Health and Environmental Medicine, New York University, New York
  • 6Departments of Microbiology and Immunology and Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York
JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(5):599-606. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.5504

Importance  Prospective studies are needed to examine the temporal relationship between oral human papillomavirus (HPV) detection and risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Moreover, the oral cavity contains a wide spectrum of α-, β-, and γ-HPV types, but their association with risk of HNSCC is unknown.

Objective  To prospectively examine associations between α-, β-, and γ-HPV detection in the oral cavity and incident HNSCC.

Design  A nested case-control study was carried out among 96 650 participants, cancer free at baseline, with available mouthwash samples in 2 prospective cohort studies: (1) the American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort and (2) the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Incident cases of HNSCC (n = 132) were identified during an average 3.9 years of follow-up in both cohorts. Three controls per case (n = 396) were selected through incidence density sampling and matched on age, sex, race/ethnicity, and time since mouthwash collection.

Methods  Through a next-generation sequencing assay, DNA from α-, β-, and γ-HPV types were detected. Conditional logistic regression models were used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% CIs, adjusting for smoking history, alcohol consumption, and detection of HPV-16 for β- and γ-HPVs.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Incident HNSCC, which includes cancers of the oropharynx, oral cavity, and larynx.

Results  A total of 132 participants developed HNSCC during the follow-up period (103 men and 29 women; average age at baseline, 66.5 years). Oral HPV-16 detection was associated with incident HNSCC (OR, 7.1; 95% CI, 2.2-22.6), with positive association for oropharyngeal SCC (OR, 22.4; 95% CI, 1.8-276.7), but not for oral cavity (OR, 4.5; 95% CI, 0.6-34.7) or laryngeal SCCs (OR, 0.11; 95% CI, 0.01-834.80). Detection of β1-HPV-5 and β2-HPV-38 types, as well as γ-11 and γ-12 species, had ORs for HNSCC that ranged from 2.64 to 5.45 (P < .01 for all comparisons). Detection of β1-HPV-5 type was associated with oropharyngeal (OR, 7.42; 95% CI, 0.98-56.82; P = .054), oral cavity (OR, 5.34; 95% CI, 1.51-18.80; P = .01), and laryngeal SCCs (OR, 2.71; 95% CI, 1.00-7.43; P = .05), whereas γ11- and γ12-HPV species were associated with both oral cavity (OR, 7.47; 95% CI, 1.21-46.17; P = .03; and OR, 6.71; 95% CI, 1.47-30.75; P = .01, respectively) and laryngeal SCCs (OR, 7.49; 95% CI, 1.10-51.04; P = .04 and OR, 5.31; 95% CI, 1.13-24.95; P = .03, respectively).

Conclusions and Relevance  This study demonstrates that HPV-16 detection precedes the incidence of oropharyngeal SCC. Associations of other HPVs, including γ11- and γ12-HPV species and β1-HPV-5 type suggest a broader role for HPVs in HNSCC etiology.