More Cancers Associated with HPV?

Skin cancers may be associated with cutaneous HPV

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Human papillomavirus (HPV) is probably most notorious for causing cervical cancer. The list of cancers associated with HPV has grown recently, and a new study may add two more cancer types to the list.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) that affects the skin (cutaneous) works "synergistically" with UV radiation to promote the formation of common skin cancers in people who have a difficult time tanning because of their complexion.

"Use sunscreen - it works."

These are the findings of research carried out by researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center and colleagues at the University of South Florida and the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg.

Non-melanoma skin cancers – basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – are on the rise, despite more sunscreen use, according to study lead author, Dana E. Rollison, PhD, Moffitt associate member, vice president and chief health information officer.

Rollison and her team undertook the study "...to identify co-factors that may interact with UV radiation exposure in increasing the skin cancer risk."

The risk factors for BCC and SCC include age, sun exposure and being a male with a light complexion, eyes and hair. These individuals have difficulty tanning because they have less melanin, the chemical substance that protects the skin from UV rays.

The researchers' theory was that persistent HPV infection interferes with the body's ability to respond to DNA damage caused by the sun's radiation.

As a result, the scientists surmised that HPV and sunlight exposure work together to increase a person's susceptibility to BCC and SCC.

The study involved 204 patients with BCC, 156 with SCC and 297 individuals with no cancer. All the volunteer participants provided blood samples that were tested for cutaneous HPV antibodies, which would indicate presence of the virus.

Researchers concluded that "...a potential role for cutaneous HPV infections in NMSC [non-melanoma skin cancer] development, and accumulating evidence suggests that cutaneous HPV may interact synergistically with UV radiation exposure in NMSC development."

“Identifying how HPV infections might influence sunlight-associated risks of NMSC may lead to improved identification of high-risk individuals and also aid in the development of new prevention strategies,” Rollison said.

This research, which was published in a recent issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases, was supported by a grant from Florida’s James & Esther King Biomedical Research Program.

The authors stated no conflict of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 26, 2012
Last Updated:
May 3, 2013