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May 27, 2019  
FIBROIDS1 NEWS: Feature Story

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  • HPV Linked to Skin Cancer

    HPV Linked to Skin Cancer

    May 16, 2006

    By: Laurie Edwards for Fibroids1

    While many of us know by now that human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause a variety of conditions – from cervical cancer to plantar and genital warts – researchers at Dartmouth Medical School have news that is especially relevant as we head into the summer months. HPV may also be a risk factor in developing squamous cell carcinoma, a common from of skin cancer.

    Take Action
    Know the risk factors for HPV and cancer

    Genital HPV is spread through skin-to-skin contact, not through an exchange of bodily fluid.

    Genital HPV cannot be entirely prevented by condom use.

    This virus is often asymptomatic – people usually don't know they have it.

    Know your skin cancer risk factors: Family history of skin cancer, fair pigmentation and exposure to sunlight.

    Though HPV is associated with a higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, other factors continue to play an important role.

    For more information on skin cancer prevention and risks, check out

    More about HPV

    There are more than 100 HPV types.

    About 30 of these types are sexually transmitted and cause genital HPV.

    The HPVs that grow on hands and feet are different from the HPVs that cause genital warts.

    About 15 strains of HPV are considered high-risk for cancer, although cancer may not develop automatically if a person is infected with one of these strains.

    About 20 million people – men and women – are thought to have an active HPV infection at any given time.

    “We found a virus that may be a risk factor for skin cancer. Although sun exposure and sensitivity to sun are still the main culprits in skin cancer, our findings suggest skin types of HPV may also play a role in the development of squamous cell carcinomas,” said lead study author Dr. Margaret Karagas.

    According to the study, published in a recent issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, this type of skin cancer was associated with a 60 percent increase in the risk of infection with HPV. Experts caution that having HPV does not directly cause the skin cancer, but is linked with a higher risk of developing it.

    Typically, skin cancer is associated with exposure to sunlight and having fairer skin, which increases a person’s sensitivity to the sun. About 200,000 people develop the disease each year. According to dermatologist Dr. Peter Sands, skin cancers are more common than all other cancers combined and often, they are some of the least dangerous.

    Researchers used a new technology called multiplex serology to look at genus beta strains of HPV; genus alpha is the type associated with cervical cancer. Multiplex serology relies on fluorescent bead technology to detect viral antibodies. During this process, scientists did not find a presence of HPV in patients with another type of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma.

    “This makes sense because we have known that patients who are taking immunosuppressive drugs, such as organ transplant recipients have a tendency to develop squamous cell skin cancers, and that their tumors frequently contain these beta type HPVs,” said Karagas.

    In conjunction with the multiplex serology, researchers also questioned the participants in personal interviews to determine what other skin factors could play a role in the results of their study. Topics included: history of smoking or drinking, personal and family medical history and level of exposure to sun as well as sun sensitivity.

    Even with all of these other factors taken into account, the team still found an association between HPV and skin cancer.

    So what else makes this latest discovery so significant? Since the number of incidences of skin cancer continue to rise around the world, finding newer, less expensive ways to both treat and prevent it is important. In this case, the study could point towards a potential vaccine that would prevent additional strains of HPV and in doing so, could prevent other types of skin cancer.

    Such a vaccine could affect millions of patients each year.

    “While further study is needed, a potential role of viruses in skin cancer occurrence could represent a new line of investigation for the detection and treatment of squamous cell skin cancer,” said Karagas.

    Last updated: 16-May-06


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