Human papillomavirus infection and non-melanoma skin cancer in immunosuppressed and immunocompetent individuals

J Med Virol. 2000 Jul;61(3):289-97. doi: 10.1002/1096-9071(200007)61:3<289::aid-jmv2>;2-z.


The role of human papillomavirus (HPV) in anogenital carcinogenesis is established firmly, but a similar role in non-melanoma skin cancer remains speculative. Certain immunosuppressed individuals have an increased incidence of both viral warts and non-melanoma skin cancer, that has prompted the suggestion that HPV may play a pathogenic role. Differences in the techniques used to detect HPV DNA in skin, however, have led to discrepancies in the prevalence and spectrum of HPV types reported in these malignancies. This study describes the use of a comprehensive degenerate PCR technique to compare the HPV status of 148 Non-melanoma skin cancers from immunosuppressed and immunocompetent individuals. HPV DNA was detected in 37/44 (84.1%) squamous cell carcinomas, 18/24 (75%) basal cell carcinomas and 15/17 (88.2%) premalignant skin lesions from the immunosuppressed group compared with 6/22 (27.2%) squamous cell carcinomas, 11/30 (36.7%) basal cell carcinomas and 6/11 (54. 4%) premalignancies in the immunocompetent group. Epidermodysplasia verruciformis HPV types prevailed in all lesion types from both groups of patients. In immunosuppressed individuals, cutaneous HPV types were also identified at high frequency, and co-detection of multiple HPV types within single tumours was commonly observed. This study represents the largest and most comprehensive analysis of the HPV status of non-melanoma skin cancers yet undertaken; whereas there are clearly significant differences in non-melanoma skin cancers from immunosuppressed and immunocompetent populations, we provide evidence that the prevalence and spectrum of HPV types does not differ in squamous cell carcinomas, basal cell carcinomas or premalignancies within the two populations. These data have important implications for future investigation of the role of HPV in cutaneous carcinogenesis at a functional level.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / virology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunocompetence
  • Immunocompromised Host*
  • Kidney Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomaviridae / classification
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Precancerous Conditions / virology
  • Skin Neoplasms / virology*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology*


  • DNA, Viral