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HPV Might Raise Risk of Form of Skin Cancer

FRIDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- Infection with cutaneous human papillomavirus (HPV) is linked to a type of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma, according to a new study.

Risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma include exposure to the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation, older age, light skin and a suppressed immune system. The international group of researchers found that having antibodies to certain types of cutaneous HPV may be an additional risk factor for this common form of skin cancer.

"Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is the second most frequently occurring cancer among Caucasians in the United States, and the numbers of cases continue to rise," study author Dana Rollison, vice president and chief health information officer at Moffitt Cancer Center, in Tampa, Fla., said in a Moffitt news release.

Cutaneous (skin) HPV infection is different from the HPV infection associated with cervical cancer, the release pointed out.

The study investigated the links between cutaneous HPV antibodies in the blood and HPV infection in skin tumors.

The researchers tested 159 tissue samples with squamous cell carcinoma for the presence of cutaneous HPV infection. They found the skin cancer was significantly associated with antibodies to three different types of cutaneous HPV.

Additional links were found between antibodies to two other types of cutaneous HPV when compared to blood samples from people without skin cancer, according to the researchers.

Some experts argue that infection with a certain form of cutaneous HPV interferes with the repair of DNA in sun-damaged skin and could predispose people to squamous cell cancer, the release noted.

"We hope that this study, aimed at identifying the role of cutaneous HPV infection in [squamous cell carcinoma], will lead to improved knowledge about who is at risk for [squamous cell carcinoma] and the development of new means of prevention," the researchers wrote.

The study appeared this month in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on squamous cell carcinoma.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Moffitt Cancer Center, news release, June 29, 2012

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