Author(s): Beckmann AM, Beckmann AM, Thomas DB, McKnight B, Sherman KJ
A population-based case-control study was conducted in western Washington state to examine the relations between infection with human papilloma viruses (HPV), herpes simplex viruses (HSV), and risk of oral squamous cell cancer in men. Interviews were completed on 131 oral cancer cases diagnosed between January 1985 and December 1989 and 136 controls frequency matched to cases on age and date of diagnosis who were obtained by random digit dialing. The risk for oral cancer among men with 30 or more sexual partners was 2.4 times that of men with four or fewer partners (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.0-5.9). Men who ever practiced oral sex had lower risk for oral cancer relative to men who never practiced oral sex (relative risk (RR) = 0.4, 95% CI 0.2-0.8). Analyses of exfoliated oral cavity cells for the presence of HPV-6 DNA with polymerase chain reaction revealed that men with an oral HPV-6 infection had 2.9 times the risk for oral cancer of noninfected men (95% CI 1.1-7.3), whereas men with an oral HPV-16 infection had 6.2 times the risk for oral cancer of noninfected men (crude RR = 6.2, 95% CI 0.7-52.2). Relative risks associated with serologically detected HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections were 0.8 (95% CI 0.3-1.7) and 1.8 (95% CI 0.7-4.6), respectively. The authors conclude that HPV-6 is associated with oral cancer. Although men infected with HPV-16 and HSV-2 were at elevated risk, these associations may have been due to chance. The role of specific sexual practices in the transmission of viruses to the oral cavity remains unclear.