Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore found that partners of patients with mouth and throat (oropharyngeal) cancers related to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection were no more likely to have HPV infection than the general population and their risk of contracting mouth or throat cancer was low.
Gypsyamber D’Souza PhD, MPH, MS, associate professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and colleagues studied 166 patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer (HPV-OPC) and 94 of the patients’ spouses or long-term partners. Patients had a median age of 56 years; 89 percent were male, 92 percent were non-Hispanic white, and 94 percent had performed oral sex. Spouses/partners were predominantly female (94 percent), non-Hispanic white (92 percent), and had a median age of 53 years. Patients were more likely to have had more than 10 oral sex partners throughout their lifetime (39 percent) compared to spouses/partners (11 percent). The researchers collected DNA samples from a 30-second mouth rinse and gargle at the time of diagnosis and one year later, and analyzed the samples for presence of 36 subtypes of HPV DNA.
Researchers found nearly two-thirds of cases (65 percent) had HPV DNA in the oral cells and slightly more than half (54 percent) had HPV 16, the most prevalent type of the virus found in the majority of HPV-OPC. After one year and at the end of treatment, analysis of oral rinse samples from HPV-OPC patients showed that the majority no longer had detectable HPV 16 DNA. Prevalence of HPV among partners was 5 percent, which is comparable to the 4 percent prevalence found in women in the general population. HPV 16 was found in 2.3 percent of female partners and none of the male partners. Also, researchers found no pre-cancers or cancers in the 60 partners/spouses who had a visual oral examination. D’Souza stated that findings showed prevalence of oral HPV is not increased among partners of patients with HPV-OPC and their risk is low.
D’Souza presented the study at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 2013 Annual Meeting.