Dr. Margaret Karagas, of Dartmouth Medical School's Norris Cotton Cancer Center said that Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a major risk factor for skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma).
The results were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The researchers detected antibodies from a strain of HPV on skin cancer samples.
The lead researcher said that sun exposure and sensitivity to sun are still the main culprits in skin cancer. Previously it was found that there existed a relationship between cancer of the cervix and alpha or mucosal types of HPV.
But now the team found that there existed a relationship between squamous cell carcinoma and beta HPVs. The research was conducted among 252 patients with squamous cell carcinoma, 525 patients with basal cell carcinomas and 461 control subjects. The team used multiplex serology, a new method based on fluorescent bead technology to detect viral antibodies.
It was found that HPV antibodies in patients diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma were detected more frequently than in the control subjects. The researchers did not detect HPV in the patients with basal cell carcinomas more frequently than controls.
This is because patients who are taking immunosuppressive drugs, such as organ transplant recipients tend to develop squamous cell skin cancers, and that their tumors frequently contain these beta type HPVs. In addition to this researchers asked the participants about their lifestyle habits, such as smoking, drinking, medical and family history, and their usual level of sun exposure and their skin's sensitivity to sun. After analyzing all these factors the researchers still found an association between HPV and squamous skin cancer.
But in conclusion it was said that further study is needed to establish a direct link and illustrate the potential role played by the viruses in skin cancer.