Human papilloma virus and genitourinary cancers: a narrative review

Minerva Urol Nefrol. 2018 Dec;70(6):579-587. doi: 10.23736/S0393-2249.18.03141-7. Epub 2018 Aug 29.


Introduction: Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted pathogen and its potential role in the genesis of several diseases such as cervical, head and neck, anal and penile cancers, is now largely recognized. Aim of this review article was to evaluate and summarize the state of the art of HPV-related urogenital cancers, focusing on the potentially innovative methods for the diagnosis of infection that should be used to improve viral causative detection and prevent its diffusion through sexual intercourses.

Evidence acquisition: The initial search was carried out by using the Medline and the Google Scholar computerized databases through the selected key-words to identify the more recent literature on HPV epidemiology and its relationship with the main relevant urinary tract cancers. Studies were selected, extracted, analyzed and summarized. The PRISMA statement criteria were adopted and reported.

Evidence synthesis: Polymerase chain reaction assay (HPV test) represents the best option for the diagnosis of HPV infection. Difficulties for the diagnosis in male are due to the site of investigation (glans, sub coronal sulcus, scrotum, urine, sperm) and the method adopted to take the sample (brushing, tissue biopsy). Due to these reasons several studies analyzed seemed to be incomparable. HPV infection is generally found in about 20% of heterosexual men. Its connection with cervical, anal, head and neck and penile cancer has been previously evidenced in 90%, 60%, 68% and 40% of cases respectively. In particular, HPV infection differed significantly among penile squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) subtypes ranging from 22.4% in verrucous subtype to 66.3% for the basaloid/warty subtype. Although the connection between prostate cancer and HPV infection has never been previously confirmed, forest plot analysis relative to a series of nine studies done during the last ten years, demonstrated a 7.7 objective risk (OR) for subjects with HPV infection to develop subsequent prostate cancer. On the other hand, some authors found comparable results in subjects with prostate cancer, benign prostate hyperplasia and prostate inflammation, thus demonstrating that this link still remains questionable. Similarly, the connection between HPV infection and urothelial, testicular and renal cancer continue to be hotly debated although HPV has been found in the urine, semen and renal tissue of patients respectively.

Conclusions: Integrated parts of HPV (E6 and E7 fractions) have been previously found in cervical, head and neck, anal and penile cancers. Conversely, although the evidence of concomitant HPV infection, integrated viral genome in cancer cells DNA had never been demonstrated in all the other genito-urinary tract cancers, and its role in the tumor genesis remain still largely debated. This is the reason why HPV infection should be tested in all patients with genitourinary cancer to better investigate about its potential role in the tumor genesis and development. Moreover, HPV infection option should be kept in mind when considering possible viral transmission to sexual partners.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Male
  • Papillomaviridae
  • Papillomavirus Infections / complications*
  • Penile Neoplasms / etiology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Viral / complications
  • Testicular Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Urogenital Neoplasms / etiology*