Human papillomavirus and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma: what the clinician should know

Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2013 Feb;270(2):405-16. doi: 10.1007/s00405-012-2086-4. Epub 2012 Jun 30.


The incidence of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) is rising in contrast to the decreasing incidence of carcinomas arising in other subsites of the head and neck. The human papillomavirus (HPV) infection has played an increasing role in these epidemiological changes and as the etiology for a significant fraction of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas, OPSCC in particular. Most importantly, many retrospective studies have shown that the prognosis differs significantly between patients with HPV-associated tumors and non-HPV associated tumors. Thus, questions arise on the choices of treatment for patients based on HPV status and the consequences of therapy. Given the recognized relevance of HPV status in OPSCC, many new questions concerning the biology, treatment, and prevention of HPV infection arise. This review is intended to highlight some of the major issues and frequently asked questions relevant for the clinician dealing with patients with OPSCC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / etiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology*
  • Human papillomavirus 16*
  • Human papillomavirus 18*
  • Humans
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Oropharyngeal Neoplasms / virology*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis
  • Papillomavirus Infections / transmission
  • Precancerous Conditions / diagnosis
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects