Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate cervical cancers in older women to determine whether they differed from tumors in younger women with respect to human papillomavirus types, frequencies of p53 mutations, and presence of a proposed high-risk HLA-DR2 haplotype.
Study design: Cervical tissue was obtained from women undergoing surgical treatment of in situ or invasive carcinoma of the cervix. Viral and genomic deoxyribonucleic acid was extracted. The presence of human papillomavirus deoxyribonucleic acid was detected by polymerase chain reaction amplification. Viral subtypes were assigned by means of a combination of type-specific amplification and automated sequencing of the L1 region. The presence of p53 mutations was evaluated by direct sequencing of exons 5 through 9. The HLA-DR locus was screened for the presence of the high-risk DRB1*1501 allele by means of selective polymerase chain reaction amplification followed by agarose gel electrophoresis of HLA-DR2 types.
Results: Tumors from 39 women 62 to 85 years old were analyzed. Tumors from 104 younger women formed a reference group. Human papillomavirus 16 was found in 41% and 54% and human papillomavirus 18 was found in 10% and 12% of the tissue samples from older and younger women, respectively. The overall distributions of human papillomavirus types did not differ statistically between the groups. One of the 25 older patients tested had a p53 mutation. This tumor also had a positive test result for human papillomavirus 18. The DR*1501 allele was present in 33% of the older patients and 28% of the younger patients. The expected frequency of this allele in white Americans is 19.8%. The increased frequency of this allele among both older and younger women with cervical cancer was statistically significant (P < .05).
Conclusions: We hypothesized that cervical cancer in older women might differ from that in younger women with respect to human papillomavirus types, natural host immunity, or the frequency of nonviral origins of the cancer. The findings show, however, that tumors from older women are extremely similar to those from younger women with respect to the human papillomavirus types present and the infrequent occurrence of p53 mutations. In addition we found that an HLA-DR allele that is associated with a risk of cervical cancer in younger women is also associated with risk in older women. These findings are most consistent with a model similar to that in younger women but with an unusually long latency for the transforming effect of the virus in some hosts.