Esophageal papilloma, an infrequent benign tumor, and esophageal squamous-cell carcinoma sometimes appear to be associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, HPV being implicated in anogenital carcinogenesis. Our aim was to assess whether there is any epidemiological difference in terms of risk factors for papilloma and cancer. From 1989 to 1996, a total of 12,011 patients (53% male, median age 52.7 years) were submitted to esophagogastroduodenoscopy by our Digestive Endoscopy Service. The genome of HPV was sought by PCR using 2 different primer sets. Of the total, 42 subjects (0.35%), 50% male with a mean age of 45.1 years, were suffering from esophageal squamous-cell papilloma and 45 (0.37%), 91% male with a mean age of 63.0 years, from esophageal squamous-cell carcinoma. Of these patients, only 2 with papilloma were HPV(+). Compared with the general endoscopic population, patients with papilloma do not present significantly different characteristics (even in terms of frequency of esophagitis and hiatal hernia). Those with carcinoma differ significantly both from the general endoscopic population and from those with papilloma in that they are more often male (p < 0. 0001), older (p < 0.0001) and drinkers (p < 0.0001); they differ significantly only from the general population, but not from the papilloma patients, in smoking habits. Papilloma appears to be neither a lesion involving a risk of development into a malignancy nor a marker for any such risk. Environmental factors, such as alcohol and smoking, appear to play a decisive role in esophageal carcinogenesis in northern Italy.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.