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Studies of a rare cancer may prompt STD testing

Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases

The human papillomavirus, the STD known better as HPV, may have a role in causing a type of head and neck cancer, according to new research.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center examined patients with tonsil cancer and patients with nasopharyngeal cancer, which manifests itself in tumors growing behind the nose and at the top of the throat.

Of the 89 tissue samples studied, five had nasopharyngeal cancer, and four of those tested positive for HPV. The researchers noted that the four HPV-positive tumors tested negative for Epstein-Barr virus, which had previously been the most common cause of nasopharyngeal.

Dr Thomas Carey, co-director of the head and neck oncology program at the Cancer Center explained that the research may clarify the cause of nasopharyngeal tumors that are Epstein-Barr virus-negative. "This research suggests that there is a changing etiology for nasopharyngeal cancer in the North American population that may mirror the HPV-positive epidemic."

The gradual shift in causation of the cancer has simultaneously occurred with death rates declining 4 percent each year - a fact doctors attribute to HPV related tumors being more responsive to chemotherapy than tumors caused by the Epstein- Barr virus.

A rare disease, nasopharyngeal cancer occurs in about 7 out of every 1 million Americans, the American Cancer Society reports.

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