Hepatitis C virus infection was associated with certain non-oropharyngeal and human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive oropharyngeal head and neck cancers, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute has shown.1
Hepatitis C virus infection is associated with increased risk for developing hepatocellular carcinoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In 2009, The University of Texas MD Anderson in Houston established the first clinic in the United States for treating patients with cancer who were infected with hepatitis C virus.
There, they observed a surprisingly large number of patients with head and neck cancers. Therefore, the investigators sought to determine whether hepatitis C virus infection is associated with head and neck cancers.
For the study, researchers analyzed data 34 545 patients with cancer tested for hepatitis C virus antibodies at MD Anderson Cancer Center between 2004 and 2014. Of those, 164 had oropharyngeal cancer, 245 had non-oropharyngeal head and neck cancers, 378 had lung cancer, 168 had esophageal cancer, and 148 had bladder cancer. The patients with cancers other than head and neck cancers were considered controls.
Results showed that the prevalence of hepatitis C virus seropositivity was higher in patients with oropharyngeal cancer (14.0%; 95% CI, 8.7 – 19.4), particularly those with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer (16.9%; 95% CI, 8.7 – 24.9), and patients with non-oropharyngeal head and neck cancers (20.0%; 95% CI, 14.9 – 25.0) than in control subjects (6.5%; 95% CI, 4.6 – 8.3).
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The study further demonstrated that hepatitis C virus seropositivity was statistically significantly associated with non-oropharyngeal (except nasopharyngeal) head and neck cancers (OR, 2.85; 95% CI, 1.38 – 5.88) and HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers (OR, 2.97; 95% CI, 1.31 – 6.76).
The authors noted that further studies are needed to explore the potential interaction between hepatitis C virus and HPV, as well as the association between hepatitis C virus and other HPV-related malignancies, such as cervical and anal cancers.
- Mahale P, Sturgis EM, Tweardy DJ, et al. Association between hepatitis c virus and head and neck cancers [published online ahead of print April 13, 2016]. J Natl Cancer Inst. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djw035.