Is There a Connection Between HPV and Lung Cancer?

November 1, 2018

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is often thought of as the cervical cancer virus. However, HPV is far more than that. There are over 150 kinds of HPV. Over 40 of these types could be sexually transmitted. Those viruses cause from common skin warts to genital warts to cancer.

The amount of cancers that were found to be related to HPV is on the upswing.

Sexually transmitted HPV infections have been shown to cause not simply cervical cancers. They can also lead to penile cancers, anal cancers, and throat cancers. Recent studies have also shown that there might even be an association between HPV and lung cancer.

Smoking, of course, is a significant cause of lung cancer in the Western world. But, it is not the only cause of lung cancer. Asbestos, radon, and other harmful toxins have also been linked to lung cancer. So have a lot of infectious diseases. Furthermore, cognitive, behavioural, and other factors all play a part in the growth of lung cancer.

HPV & Lung Cancer

It should come as no surprise that most scientists have hypothesized that HPV might be correlated with at least a fraction of lung tumors. HPV isn’t only known to cause cancer. HPV-related cancers have been found in tissues that are adjacent to the lung — such as the throat and tonsils.

To put it differently, HPV both has accessibility to cells and can make cells cancerous.

In reality, a variety of studies have demonstrated an association between HPV and lung cancer. On the other hand, the connection remains highly contentious. Studies of various lung cancers have failed to show HPV DNA in their tumor samples.

These results may seem contradictory, and also make people question whether they ought to trust in mathematics. There are several ways this seeming controversy could be clarified.

  1. HPV is far more likely to be associated with lung cancer in certain areas of the planet than in others.
    This explanation is extremely plausible. The¬†incidence of HPV types varies strongly by region. So does the incidence of different cancers that have proven a much stronger relationship with HPV infection — like cervical cancer. It is also encouraged by the data from meta-analyses that have discovered the outcomes of HPV and lung cancer studies vary strongly by area but look more consistent particularly locations. HPV-related lung cancers, as such, appear to be more common in Asia than in Europe.
  2. The studies which have found HPV in lung cancer tumors have suffered from contamination with viral DNA.
    This is certainly possible in some cases. However, the high number of studies which have found relationships between HPV and lung cancer create a consistent problem with contamination unlikely.
  3. The studies that have discovered no more HPV in lung cancer tumors are not looking for HPV in the right way.
    If scientists were looking for particular types of HPV in tumors and chose the wrong kinds to look for, this could be an explanation. It could also explain how HPV could be missed in lung cancer trials if they chose ineffective evaluations for the virus. Additional you have to test the right tumors. In the end, just a subset of lung cancers are very likely to be HPV-associated. Therefore, picking the wrong cases to test could also explain why no virus was discovered.

    In all likelihood, it is the first explanation that will be demonstrated to be authentic. Lung cancer is not like cervical cancer, where the vast majority of cases are brought on by HPV infection. Rather, the studies which have demonstrated an association between lung cancer and HPV have just found the virus in a fraction of tumors. The number of lung cancers that are related to HPV varies strongly geographically and by type of tumor. What’s more, even the studies which show a strong association between lung cancer and HPV have rarely found the virus in more than 10-20 percent of samples.

    This is an important reminder that many kinds of cancer may have many different different causes.

    They are also able to have a variety of different outcomes. While smoking remains widespread across the planet, it will likely remain the predominant cause of lung cancer. However if, over time, fewer and fewer people smoke, then we may observe a bigger percentage of the lung cancers that stay are related to different causes — such as HPV.

    That type of causative shift has already been seen in oral and throat cancers. A larger percentage each year seem to be related to viral disease. Fortunately, that shift has also been associated with an increase in prostate cancer survival, HPV-related throat cancers seem to be less deadly than their tobacco-related counterparts. If it’s the similar survival difference might also be true for HPV-related lung cancers remains to be seen.