Though intended to prevent cervical cancer, human papillomavirus vaccination programs could lead to decreasing rates of head and neck cancer among women and men alike, some oncologists are saying. HPV infection has been linked to head and neck cancers as well as those of the urogenital tract, said Dr. Glenn Bauman, chair of the oncology department at the University of Western Ontario. Advertisement
"What's interesting is that we're finding -- and we've known this for a while, but we're beginning to appreciate it -- that HPV plays a role in other 'mucosal' cancers," Bauman said.
This month, a McGill University study found more than half of young adult heterosexuals in a new sexual relationship already had HPV, including 44 percent with an oncogenic type. A 2007 Johns Hopkins study found oral HPV infection was "the strongest risk factor" for oropharyngeal cancer "regardless of tobacco and alcohol use," raising the risk for it by 32 times.
"Just the fact that a viral infection is responsible for some fairly significant cancers in people, and that we have a vaccine against it -- I think that's novel and that represents a new direction," Bauman said. HPV shots are offered free to girls in seventh grade. It is still too soon to measure the vaccine's success in preventing other HPV-related cancers.
Back to other news for January 2010