HPV Strain More Prevalent Among Smokers

Tobacco users have an increased risk of oral human papillomavirus type 16, a sexually transmitted virus that is strongly associated with cervical cancer.

New study results suggest tobacco users have an increased risk of oral human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV-16), a sexually transmitted virus that is strongly associated with cervical cancer.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine investigated associations among oral HPV-16 prevalence and biomarkers that reflect tobacco exposures from environmental, smoking, and smokeless tobacco factors.

Their analysis, which appeared in the October 8, 2014, issue of JAMA, included 6887 participants aged 14 to 69 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, of whom 2012 were current tobacco users.

The researchers uncovered a greater oral HPV-16 prevalence among the current tobacco users (2%), compared with former tobacco users or those who had never smoked (0.6%). Furthermore, levels of biomarkers that indicate recent tobacco use were higher among those with oral HPV-16.

“These findings highlight the need to evaluate the role of tobacco in the natural history of oral HPV-16 infection, and progression to malignancy,” the study authors wrote.

Current tobacco users were more likely to be male, younger, less educated, and have a higher number of lifetime oral sexual partners than non-users, the researchers found. In addition, self-reported and biological tobacco exposure measures and oral sexual behavior were significantly associated with oral HPV-16 infection.