Friday, July 20, 2012

Even though the human papillomavirus (HPV) is a risk factor for certain head and neck cancers, its presence could make all the difference in terms of survival, especially for African Americans with throat cancer

According to a new study, HPV has a substantial impact on overall survival in African Americans with oropharyngeal cancer, a cancer that affects part of the throat, the base of the tongue, the tonsils, the soft palate (back of the mouth), and the walls of the pharynx (throat). The study shows that African Americans who are HPV positive have better outcomes than African Americans without HPV. Further, African Americans who are HPV negative not only have poorer survival compared to African Americans with HPV, they also did worse than Caucasians both with HPV and without HPV present in oropharyngeal cancer. This study adds to the mounting evidence of HPV as a racially-linked sexual behavior lifestyle risk factor impacting survival outcomes for both African American and Caucasian patients with oropharyngeal cancer. The American Cancer Society's estimates that about 35,000 people in the United States will get oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in 2012; an estimated 6,800 people will die of these cancers. Similar to other cancers of the head and neck cancer, risk factors include smoking, alcohol consumption. HPV is also a risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer. To compare survival outcomes in HPV positive and HPV negative African Americans with oropharyngeal cancer, researchers conducted a retrospective study of 118 patients. Among the study group, 67 were HPV negative and 51 were HPV positive. Forty-two of those in the study were African American. The study found that African Americans are less likely to be HPV positive. Those older than 50 are less likely to be HPV positive. Those with late-stage oropharyngeal cancer are more likely to be unmarried and more likely to be HPV positive. HPV negative patients had 2.9 times the risk of death as HPV positive patients. Overall, the HPV race groups differed with significantly poorer survival for HPV negative African Americans versus HPV positive African Americans, HPV positive Caucasians and HPV negative Caucasians

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