Bovine leukemia virus linked to breast cancer but not coinfection with human papillomavirus: Case-control study of women in Texas

Cancer. 2018 Apr 1;124(7):1342-1349. doi: 10.1002/cncr.31169. Epub 2017 Dec 20.


Background: Bovine leukemia virus (BLV) and human papillomavirus (HPV) were previously identified in human breast tissue and have been associated with breast cancer in independent studies. The objective of the current study was to test for the presence of BLV and HPV in the same breast tissue specimens to determine whether the viruses were associated with breast cancer either singly or together.

Methods: Archival formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded breast tissue sections from 216 women were received from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center along with patient diagnosis. In situ polymerase chain reaction and/or DNA hybridization methods were used to detect targeted DNA segments of BLV and HPV. Standard statistical methods were used to calculate age-adjusted odds ratios, attributable risk, and P values for the trend related to the association between presence of a virus and a diagnosis of breast disease.

Results: Women diagnosed with breast cancer were significantly more likely to have BLV DNA in their breast tissue compared with women with benign diagnoses and no history of breast cancer. Women with breast pathology classified as premalignant and no history of breast cancer also were found to have an elevated risk of harboring BLV DNA in their breast tissue. HPV status was not associated with malignancy, premalignant breast disease, or the presence of BLV in the breast tissues.

Conclusions: The data from the current study supported previous findings of a significant association between BLV DNA in breast tissue and a diagnosis of breast cancer, but did not demonstrate oncogenic strains of HPV associated with breast cancer or the presence of BLV DNA in breast tissue. The authors believe the findings of the current study contribute to overall knowledge regarding a possible causal role for viruses in human breast cancer. Cancer 2018;124:1342-9. © 2017 American Cancer Society.

Keywords: bovine leukemia virus (BLV); breast cancer; case-control study; human papillomavirus (HPV); oncogenic viruses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / virology*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / virology*
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / virology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cattle
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • Enzootic Bovine Leukosis / complications*
  • Enzootic Bovine Leukosis / virology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Leukemia Virus, Bovine / genetics
  • Leukemia Virus, Bovine / isolation & purification*
  • Middle Aged
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Prognosis
  • Texas / epidemiology


  • DNA, Viral