Gum Disease, HPV May Play Role in Head & Neck Cancers

Risks for these tumors rose alongside infection with the virus and poor gums, study found

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MONDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Persistent gum disease, along with the human papillomavirus (HPV) might work together to raise the odds for head and neck cancer, new research suggests.

HPV is an important risk factor for head and neck cancers, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

In the new study, researchers analyzed data from 124 people who were diagnosed with head and neck squamous cell carcinomas and found that more than 40 percent of the 124 tumor samples taken from the patients were positive for HPV.

Patients with HPV-positive tumors were also much more likely to have a history of gum disease than those with HPV-negative tumors, according to a team led by Dr. Mine Tezal, a dentist and assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, in New York.

They noted that gum disease is easy to detect and may help doctors identify patients at high risk for HPV infection in the mouth.

The inflammation caused by gum disease (periodontitis) may be key to the illness' effect on HPV infection and cancer risk, the authors added.

"Prevention or treatment of sources of inflammation in the oral cavity may be a simple yet effective way to reduce the acquisition and persistence of oral HPV infection," they wrote.

The study was published online June 18 in the journal Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about head and neck cancers.

SOURCE: Archives of Otolaryngology -- Head & Neck Surgery, news release, June 18, 2012

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