Objective: To establish relationships between smoking status and human papillomavirus in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas.
Design: Human papillomavirus was detected in paraffin-embedded samples using E6-directed consensus primers and type-specific oligonucleotide probes. Patients were classified as smokers and nonsmokers. Alcohol use was also recorded. Data were analyzed by means of the Fisher exact test. Sequence analysis of exons 5 to 8 of the p53 gene was performed in tumor samples from nonsmokers.
Setting: Academic medical center in Paris, France.
Patients: One hundred eighty-seven consecutive patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
Results: The overall prevalence of human papillomaviral infection was 10.7%. Human papillomavirus occurred more frequently (P = .02) in oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (18.6%) than in other locations (6.1%). There were 10 nonsmokers (5%). The 50% incidence of human papillomavirus in nonsmokers (95% confidence interval, 19%-81%) differed significantly from the 8.5% incidence in smokers (95% confidence interval, 5%-14%; P = .003). No occupational risk factor was recorded in nonsmokers. None of these patients had p53 gene mutations in cancer cells.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that human papillomavirus may play a role in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas in nonsmokers.