Jan. 23, 2008 For the first time researchers from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine suggest a direct interaction between cigarette smoke carcinogens and the human papillomavirus that may lead to increased risk of cervical cancer. They report their findings in the January 2008 issue of the Journal of Virology.
Cervical cancer is the third leading cancer type in women worldwide. Over 90% of the cases presented have been linked to human papillomavirus (HPV). Many women unknowingly carry HPV and the virus naturally regresses on its own over time. HPV will only progress into cervical cancer in a small percentage of women, but past studies have proposed cigarette smoking to be a likely influence.
HPV types 16, 18, and 31 are the most commonly associated with cervical cancer. In the study researchers detected benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), a major carcinogen in cigarette smoke, in the cervical mucus and tested its interaction with HPV. Levels of HPV type 31 increased by 10-fold following exposure to high concentrations of the BaP carcinogen. Levels of HPV types 16 and 18 were also elevated after exposure to BaP.
“Overall, BaP modulation of the HPV life cycle could potentially enhance viral persistence, host tissue carcinogenesis, and permissiveness for cancer progression,” say the researchers.
Reference: S. Alam, M.J. Conway, H.S. Chen, C. Meyers. 2008. The cigarette smoke carcinogen benzo[a]pyrene enhances human papillomavirus synthesis. Journal of Virology, 82. 2: 1053-1058.
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