The role of human papillomavirus (HPV) in esophageal cancers was evaluated in patients seen at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Frozen esophageal tumor tissues from 22 cases with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and 24 cases with adenocarcinoma (AC), diagnosed between 1988 and 1998, were assayed for HPV sequences by reverse line blot polymerase chain reaction. HPV sequences (HPV-54) were detected in a single specimen; the other 45 specimens were negative. The HPV sequences in the positive specimen may represent infection of the epithelium. Our results suggest that genital HPVs may sometimes infect the esophagus, but there is no evidence to indicate that these infections contribute substantially to the development of esophageal cancer in North America.
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