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Researchers ID behavioral risk factors for head and neck cancers
Date:3/11/2008

That research was published online Feb. 12 also in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. (http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/100/4/261) According to Gillison, the American Joint Committee on Cancer is now considering incorporating HPV status in its guidelines for determining clinical stages of head and neck cancer.

For the current study, Gillison and her team studied 240 patients diagnosed with head and neck squamous cell carcinomas at the Johns Hopkins Hospital between 2000 and 2006, and determined whether their tumors were positive or negative for HPV. They formed a control group by matching up to two people without cancer to each patient by similar age and sex. All study participants completed a computerized interview that asked questions about their risk factors.

Overall, the researchers detected HPV16 in 92 cancer patients. They found that HPV-positive cancers were associated with several measures of sexual behavior and exposure to marijuana but not with tobacco or alcohol use, or with poor oral hygiene. These associations became stronger with increasing numbers of oral sex partners, and with longer or more intense use of marijuana. In fact, among nonsmokers of tobacco, participants who smoked marijuana for at least five years were 11 times more likely to develop HPV-positive cancers.

Gillison says that her study is one of the first to connect marijuana use with the development of HPV-linked head and neck cancers. Its possible that other behaviors linked with marijuana use could be the real culprit, and our results will need to be confirmed, she says. Some reports show that chemicals in marijuana called cannabinoids could affect the immune systems ability to clear a viral infection, according to Gillison.

Sexual behaviors associated with HPV-positive cancers included increasing numbers of lifetime vaginal or oral sex partners, p
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Contact: Vanessa Wasta
wastava@jhmi.edu
410-955-1287
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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