HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer in the United Kingdom: an evolution in understanding of disease etiology

Andrew G Schache, Ned G Powell, Kate S Cuschieri, Max Robinson, Sam Leary, Hisham Mehanna, Davy Rapozo, Anna Long, Heather Cubie, Elizabeth Junor, Hannah Monaghan, Kevin J Harrington, Christopher M Nutting, Ulrike Schick, Andy S Lau, Nav Upile, Jon Sheard, Kath Brougham, Catharine M L West, Ken OguejioforSteve Thomas, Andy R Ness, Miranda Pring, Gareth J Thomas, Emma V King, Dennis McCance, Jacqueline A James, Michael Moran, Phil Sloan, Richard Shaw, Mererid Evans, Terry M Jones

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A rising incidence of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) incidence has occurred throughout the developed world, where it has been attributed to an increasing impact of human papillomavirus (HPV) on disease etiology. This report presents the findings of a multicenter cross-sectional retrospective study aimed at determining the proportion of HPV-positive and HPV-negative OPSCC within the United Kingdom (UK). Archival tumor tissue blocks from 1602 patients previously diagnosed with OPSCC (2002-2011) were collated from 11 centers. HPV status was determined with 3 validated commercial tests to provide valid data for 1474 cases in total. Corresponding national incidence data from the same decade were obtained from UK Cancer registries.The overall proportion of HPV+ OPSCC between 2002-2011 was 51.8% (95% CI:49.3, 54.4) and this remained unchanged throughout the decade (unadjusted risk ratio:1.00 (95% CI:0.99, 1.02). However, over the same period, the incidence of OPSCC in the broader UK population underwent a 2-fold increase (age standardised rate (ASR) 2002:2.1 (95% CI:1.9, 2.2); 2011:4.1(95% CI:4.0, 4.3)). Although the number of OPSCC diagnosed within the UK from 2002-2011 nearly doubled, the proportion of HPV+ cases remained static at ~50%. Our results argue that the rapidly increasing incidence of OPSCC in the UK cannot be solely attributable to the influence of HPV. The parallel increase in HPV+ and HPV- cases we documented warrants further investigation, so that appropriate future prevention strategies for both types of disease can be implemented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6598-6606
JournalCancer Research
Issue number22
Early online date28 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2016


  • Head and Neck Cancer
  • Oropharyngeal Cancer
  • Human papillomavirus
  • HPV


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