University of Oxford scientists, in a study with Cancer Research, have recently published a paper which suggests that certain types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) not only significantly increase the risk of oropharyngeal cancer, but may also account for a third of the throat cancer cases.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, detail the analysis and comparison of blood samples of 938 people with cancers of the head, neck, oesophagus and oropharynx, with 1,599 people without cancer.

Over a third of those with oropharyngeal cancers presented with the antibodies to a protein called E6, from HPV16, which is one of the major HPV proteins which cause cancer. These antibodies showed up in the patient’s blood even if the sample was taken over 10 years prior to cancer being diagnosed. Antibodies showed up in less than 1% of the blood samples for those without cancer.

When the E6 protein is present in human cells, it disables the p53 protein – the ‘guardian of the genome’ which protects cells from cancer development and DNA damage – which can lead to cancer. Antibodies produced to combat the E6 protein would suggest a previous attack on the p53 protein. An estimated 7% of non-smoking women and 23% of non-smoking men who have undergone this process, and have E6 antibodies present, will develop oropharyngeal cancer over the decade.

There is some good news; diagnoses of oropharyngeal cancers which are linked to the HPV infection had a better prognosis and survival rate than those cancers not linked to HPV; 84% of those with the E6 protein antibodies in their blood survived the five year mark after diagnosis, whereas this dropped to 58% for those without the antibodies.

Early detection is your greatest chance of beating HPV. If you are worried that you may have an HPV infection, Better2Know can help you to get tested with results back just five days from when your sample is received in the laboratory.

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