Poor oral health linked to increased risk of oral HPV infection

A study published in Cancer Prevention Research1 found that people with poor oral health are at an increased risk of being infected by oral human papillomavirus (HPV)—a virus responsible for an estimated 40%-80% of oropharyngeal cancers.

The worldwide incidence of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers is rapidly increasing.

Although poor oral hygiene and poor oral health are associated with oral and oropharyngeal cancers, this study presents the first evidence of a possible link between poor oral health and an increased risk of oral HPV infection.

Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center analyzed survey data collected for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included oral health data for 3,439 people aged 30–69 years.

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Four measures were used to assess oral health: self-reporting of overall oral health, whether participants thought they might have gum disease, use of mouthwash to treat dental problems in the past 7 days, and number of lost teeth.

The survey also included data on oral HPV infections according to 19 low-risk and 18 high-risk HPV types, including HPV-16 and -18—the primary high-risk HPV subtypes for oral and oropharyngeal cancer.


° J Can Dent Assoc 2013;79:d159


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