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HPV antibodies may be linked to throat cancer

Category: Cancer Detection and Tumor Markers

Antibodies from the human papillomavirus may be linked to cases of throat cancer, according to a new study. Blood tests revealed that those with throat cancer are much more likely to have HPV antibodies than the normal population. The study was conducted by the National Cancer Institute and the International Agency for Research on Cancer and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Link between HPV antibodies and throat cancer
The study found that 1 in 3 people diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer had HPV antibodies. In the normal population, the rates for antibodies are about 1 in 100. The researchers used samples gathered by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Study and then followed up with 135 individuals who later developed throat cancer and 1,600 who did not.

"Our study shows not only that the E6 antibodies are present prior to diagnosis', but that in many cases, the antibodies are there more than a decade before the cancer was clinically detectable, an important feature of a successful screening biomarker," said Aimee Kreimer, Ph.D., one of the lead researchers of the study.

With this new research, lab tests can be developed that will allow for testing for certain throat cancers to begin much earlier than before. The research also shows a link between oral sex and throat cancer, when previously the cancer was generally connected to smoking and drinking.

What is HPV?
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that is so common that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that most people will contract it at some point in their lives. For most people, this infection is asymptomatic, but it can lead to cervical cancer in women. New research projects like the above study have found that HPV is linked to other diseases as well, so those who are sexually active should consider getting an STD test to be sure of their status with the virus.

Risk factors for HPV include having sex with multiple partners as well as already having an HIV or AIDS infection. Smoking and consistent use of birth control have also been linked to the disease, according to the CDC. Having a lab test online can allow people to be sure of their HPV status as well as that of other common STDs, like chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV.

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