Human papillomavirus (HPV) is now recognized to play a role in the pathogenesis of a subset of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs), particularly those that arise from the lingual and palatine tonsils within the oropharynx. High-risk HPV16 is identified in the overwhelming majority of HPV-positive tumors, which have molecular-genetic alterations indicative of viral oncogene function. Measures of HPV exposure, including sexual behaviors, seropositivity to HPV16, and oral, high-risk HPV infection, are associated with increased risk for oropharyngeal cancer. HPV infection may be altering the demographics of HNSCC patients, as these patients tend to be younger, nonsmokers, and nondrinkers. There is sufficient evidence to conclude that a diagnosis of HPV-positive HNSCC has significant prognostic implications; these patients have at least half the risk of death from HNSCC when compared with the HPV-negative patient. The HPV etiology of these tumors may have future clinical implications for the diagnosis, therapy, screening, and prevention of HNSCC.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research