Higher Risk for Cervical Cancer Seen Among Women Infected with Multiple HPV Types

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Cervical Cancer and HPV

The risk for developing the tissue abnormalities, or lesions, that typically precede cervical cancer is much higher for women infected with multiple genotypes of the human papillomavirus (HPV) than previously reported, according to a study published in the July issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Although doctors have known that the cervical tissue at the opening to the womb can harbor multiple HPV types, this study is the first to document that the risk for developing cervical cancer, the second most common form of cancer in women worldwide, is higher in females infected with multiple HPV types than those infected with just one HPV type.

In addition, the study's findings provide baseline data for analyzing over time the impact of the newly approved vaccine, Gardasil, on the dynamics of HPV infection.

"Women who harbor multiple infections are at higher risk for cervical lesions than those ever infected with one type only and should be followed more closely," said Eduardo L. Franco, Dr.PH., leader of the study and professor of epidemiology and oncology, and director, division of cancer epidemiology at McGill University.

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Like previous studies on HPV in cervical cancer, the new research found that pre-cancerous abnormalities primarily occurred in women infected with HPV 16 and 18, the targets of Gardasil.

The vaccine also will prevent infection by the HPV types 6 and 11 that are associated with genital warts, and thus is expected to prevent cervical cancer in thousands of women.

However, the vaccine will not protect against HPV 58, which the new study discovered to be far more oncogenic than others when found in co-infections with other HPV types. The study's findings suggest HPV 58 should be one of the targets of the next generation of cervical cancer vaccines.

Indeed, the scientists discovered that the higher risk associated with HPV 58 in co-infections was similar to that conferred by HPV 16 in co-infections. Both HPV 58 and 16 "seemed particularly prone to increase risk" for pre-cancerous lesions in the cervix, said Helen Trottier, Ph.D., the first author of the research paper.

Participating in the study were 2,000 women, ages 18 to 40, most of whom were Caucasian and lived in Brazil. The team of scientists who conducted the study is based at McGill University in Canada and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Brazil.

The results suggest that the current method that doctors use for HPV screenings

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