PDF: Human papillomavirus in oral lesions

The causal role of "high- risk" human papillomaviruses (HPVs) in cancer of the cervix was established through the accumulation of epidemiological data and molecular studies.


To this date, 15 different HPVs have been included in the group of "high- risk" types , being considered human carcinogens by the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC). 

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HPV infection has also been implicated as a risk factor for the development of oral cancer, which is suggested by histological similarities between lesions of the oral and genital mucosa, and supported by in vitro studies showing that HPV can immortalize oral keratinocytes. 

However, understanding the role of HPV in oral carcinogenesis has been hampered because of HPV prevalence rates' large variation between studies -from 10 to 80%- in oral preneoplastic and neoplastic lesions, even when polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methods are used.

The reasons for these discrepancies are still unclear, albeit differences in sampling methods, patient profiles and detection systems could lead to inaccurate conclusions. Furthermore, the presence of HPV has also been shown in benign oral lesions and normal mucosa of patients without warts or tumors.

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