The association between human papillomavirus (HPV) and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) has been recognized for over three decades. Recently, multiple meta-analyses have drawn upon existing literature to assess the strength of the HPV-ESCC linkage. Here, we review these analyses and attempt to provide a clinically-relevant overview of HPV infection in ESCC. HPV-ESCC detection rates are highly variable across studies. Geographic location likely accounts for a majority of the variation in HPV prevalence, with high-incidence regions including Asia reporting significantly higher HPV-ESCC infection rates compared with low-incidence regions such as Europe, North America, and Oceania. Based on our examination of existing data, the current literature does not support the notion that HPV is a prominent carcinogen in ESCC. We conclude that there is no basis to change the current clinical approach to ESCC patients with respect to tumor HPV status.
Keywords: Esophageal cancer; human papillomavirus (HPV); p16/INK4A; squamous cell carcinoma.