Oral HPV Infection is Three Times More Common in Men than Women, Study Shows

January 26, 2012

First author and study leader Dr. Maura Gillison, medical oncologist and head and neck cancer specialist at the OSUCCC – James, describes the findings of her paper, "Prevalence of Oral HPV Infection in the United States, 2009-2010" published online Jan. 26, 2012, by Journal of the American Medical Association.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – New research shows that men are three times more likely to have an oral human papilloma virus (HPV) infection than women. The findings help explain why HPV-related oral cancers are three times more common in men than women.

Dr. Maura Gillison, a medical oncologist and head and neck cancer specialist at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James), led the study, which was published online today (1/26) by the Journal of the American Medical Association to coincide with presentation of the findings by Gillison at the Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Symposium in Phoenix, Ariz.

Gillison and her collaborators sought to determine the prevalence of oral HPV infection in the United States and to understand the factors associated with infection and oropharyngeal cancer, tumors that affect the base of the tongue, the tonsils or back of the mouth. They analyzed mouth-rinse samples for HPV DNA and examined data collected from 5,579 men and women who participated in the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

"This study of oral HPV infection is the first step toward developing potential oropharyngeal cancer prevention strategies," says Gillison, who is the Jeg Coughlin Chair in Cancer Research at the OSUCCC-James.

"This is important because HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer is poised to overtake cervical cancer as the leading type of HPV-caused cancer in the United States, and we currently have no means to prevent or detect these cancers early."

The researchers estimate that 7 percent of Americans between ages 14 and 69 have an oral HPV infection, or about 14.9 million people, with 10.1 percent of men infected versus 3.6 percent of women.

Other key findings include the following:
  • About 1 percent of the U.S. population is infected with HPV 16 – the type of HPV most often responsible for cervical cancer – and that HPV 16 infection is five times more common in men than in women.
  • Oral HPV infection was uncommon among those with no history of sexual contact compared with those with a history of sexual contact of any type (0.9 percent vs.7.5 percent, respectively.)
  • Oral HPV infection was independently associated with age, gender, number of sexual partners and current number of cigarettes smoked per day.
Funding from Merck, John and Nina Cassils, and the Intramural Research Program of the National Cancer Institute supported this research.

Other researchers involved in this study were Tatevik Broutian, Robert Pickard, and Weihong Xiao of Ohio State University; Lisa Kahle of Information Management Services, Silver Spring Md.; and Barry I. Graubard and Anil K. Chaturvedi of the National Cancer Institute.

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (cancer.osu.edu) strives to create a cancer-free world by integrating scientific research with excellence in education and patient-centered care, a strategy that leads to better methods of prevention, detection and treatment. Ohio State is one of only 41 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and one of only seven centers funded by the NCI to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials. The NCI recently rated Ohio State's cancer program as "exceptional," the highest rating given by NCI survey teams. As the cancer program's 210-bed adult patient-care component, The James is a "Top Hospital" as named by the Leapfrog Group and one of the top 20 cancer hospitals in the nation as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

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A high quality JPEG of Maura Gillison, MD, PhD, is available here.

Contact: Darrell E. Ward, Medical Center Public Affairs and Media Relations, 614-293-3737, or Darrell.Ward@osumc.edu

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