Eurogin Roadmap: comparative epidemiology of HPV infection and associated cancers of the head and neck and cervix

Int J Cancer. 2014 Feb 1;134(3):497-507. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28201. Epub 2013 Aug 5.


The EUROGIN 2012 roadmap is focused on the comparative epidemiology of human papillomavirus (HPV) associated head and neck squamous cell cancers (HNSCC) and cervical cancers. Discussed are the similarities and differences between the two cancers with regard to global disease burden, HPV prevalence and type distribution, disease cofactors, molecular pathogenesis, treatment approaches, prognostic factors and primary and secondary prevention. The global incidence of HNSCC and cervical cancer is similar; however, a minority of HNSCC in comparison to virtually all cervical cancers is caused by HPV. HPV infection prevalence is considerably lower in the oral than genital regions for reasons that are as yet unclear. Infection at both sites is strongly associated with sexual behavior, but this association does not appear to explain the male predominance of oral HPV infection. Studies of the molecular pathogenesis of HPV-associated HNSCC (predominantly oropharyngeal cancers) are hampered by the lack of a readily detectable intermediate clinical endpoint analogous to cervix intraepithelial neoplasia. Nevertheless, similarities in chromosomal aberrations, gene expression, methylation and microRNA profiles between HPV-positive HNSCC and cervical cancer argue for shared carcinogenic pathways. Treatment approaches to oropharyngeal and cervical cancers are remarkably similar, with the development of HPV-targeted therapies as the ultimate treatment goal. Key research challenges include understanding oral HPV transmission and male predominance, clarifying the role of cofactors, and developing new screening and treatment methods for HPV-associated HNSCC.

Keywords: cervical cancer; epidemiology; head and neck cancer; human papillomavirus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Papillomavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Prognosis
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / prevention & control