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Study Suggests Link Between HPV, Skin Cancer
Date:7/9/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- The ubiquitous virus linked to cervical, vaginal and throat cancers may also raise the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, a new study suggests.

The risk from human papillomavirus (HPV) seen in a new study was even higher if people are taking drugs such as glucocorticoids to suppress the immune system, according to new research by an international team led by Dr. Margaret Karagas of Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, N.H.

But all of this does not necessarily mean that HPV causes squamous cell carcinoma, one expert said.

"That's a fairly big leap to me," said Dr. Stephen Mandy, a member of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "It's perfectly possible that people with high titers [blood levels] of HPV antibodies also have skin cancer for other reasons."

There are vaccines already in use (such as Gardasil) that protect against the HPV strains that cause cervical cancer. But experts said that, given that there are more than 100 types of HPV, vaccines' protective ability is unlikely to translate to another disease.

"Does this mean if patients got the [HPV] vaccine they would be immune to squamous cell carcinoma? Probably not," Mandy said. "I think it's a great curiosity but it's hard to define."

Experts have already unearthed a link between HPV and skin cancer in patients who have had organ transplants (and are thus taking immunosuppressive drugs) and people with a rare genetic skin condition called epidermodysplasia verruciformis, who seem to be unusually susceptible to infection with HPV.

The new study expands the search, looking to see if such a risk extends to the general population. The team compared HPV antibody levels in 663 adults with squamous cell carcinom
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