A new study suggests detection of human papillomavirus (HPV)-16 in the oral cavity was associated with 22-times increased risk of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. The study by Ilir Agalliu, M.D., Sc.D., of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, and coauthors also reports positive associations of other oral HPVs usually detected on the skin with the risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), which suggests the role of HPV in HNSCC may be more important than currently recognized.

The study was carried out among 96,650 participants from two large study groups who were cancer-free at baseline and had available mouthwash samples. There were 132 cases of HNSCC identified during an average follow-up of almost four years. The study included 396 healthy individuals (three for every case of HNSCC). The authors note limitations of the study because of its small sample size, which reflects the rarity of HNSCC. "The use of easily collected oral mouthwash samples can provide a prospective marker for risk of HNSCC and oropharyngeal SCC," the study concludes.

Article: Associations of Oral α-, β-, and γ-Human Papillomavirus Types With Risk of Incident Head and Neck Cancer, Ilir Agalliu MD, ScD, Susan Gapstur PhD, Zigui Chen PhD, Tao Wang PhD, Rebecca L. Anderson MPH, Lauren Teras PhD, Aimée R. Kreimer PhD, Richard B. Hayes PhD, Neal D. Freedman PhD, Robert D. Burk MD, JAMA Oncology, doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.5504, published online 21 January 2016.

The study includes funding/support disclosures. Please see the article for additional information, including author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

Commentary: The Alpha, Beta, Gammas of Oral Human Papillomavirus Infection and Head and Neck Cancer Risk, Dana E. Rollison PhD, Maura L. Gillison MD, PhD, JAMA Oncology, doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.5686, published online 21 January 2016.