Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers Coverage from Every Angle

Link Between Cutaneous HPV and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer?

By: Cordi Craig, MS
Posted: Thursday, September 2, 2021

Although patients with keratinocyte carcinomas, including basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, tend to have low mortality rates, the disease is associated with significant medical problems and high health-care costs. Identifying biomarkers for individuals at an increased risk of cancer may aid in timely prevention and treatment. A report, published in Cancer Research, suggests there may be a link between the presence of beta–human papillomavirus (HPV) and the risk of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. Ultimately, beta-HPV may be a useful biomarker to identify individuals at high risk of developing cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.

“Unlike mucosal HPV types known to cause cervical, head and neck, and anogenital cancers, the role of cutaneous HPV types in the development of cancer is less clear,” Dana E. Rollison, PhD, of Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida, stated in a recent institutional press release.

Through serology and viral DNA detection, the research team analyzed the presence of baseline cutaneous HPV in more than 1,000 patients from blood samples, eyebrow hair, and forearm skin swabs. Every 6 to 12 months, the patients underwent total-body examinations. They were monitored for a median of 792 days for the development of new basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.

Baseline cutaneous HPV detections, particularly from the forearm skin swab samples, significantly predicted cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. However, the presence of antibodies, indicative of past HPV infections, was not associated with cancer. Of note, HPV-positive cancer occurred more often in areas of high ultraviolet (UV) exposure than low UV exposure (P < .001), indicating that UV exposure and HPV may act synergistically to promote cancer development. No relationships were observed between baseline beta-HPV detection and the development of basal cell carcinoma or links between baseline gamma-HPV and keratinocyte carcinomas.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

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