DOI: 10.1093/infdis/jiad335 ISSN:

Prevalence of Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Human Papillomaviruses (HPV) in head and neck cancer patients and non-cancer controls and relation to behavioral factors

Walid A Al-Soneidar, Sam Harper, François Coutlée, Tarik Gheit, Massimo Tomassino, Belinda Nicolau
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Immunology and Allergy



Human papillomaviruses (HPV) cause head and neck cancer (HNC) that is increasing in incidence in developed countries. We investigate the prevalence of alpha (α-), beta (β)-, and gamma (γ) HPV among HNC cases and controls, and their relationship with sociodemographic, behavioral and oral health factors.


We obtained oral rinse and brush samples from incident HNC cases (n = 369) and hospital-based controls (n = 439), and tumor samples for a subsample of cases (n = 121). We genotyped samples using PCR with PGMY09-PGMY11 primers and Linear Array for α-HPV and type-specific multiplex (TS-MPG) for β-HPV and γ-HPV. Sociodemographic and behavioral data were obtained from interviews.


The prevalence of α-, β-, and γ-HPV among controls was 14%, 56%, and 24%, respectively, whereas among cases was 42%, 50%, and 33%, respectively. Prevalence of α- and γ-HPV, but not β-HPV, increased with the increase in sexual activity, smoking, and drinking habits. No HPV genus was associated with oral health. Tumor samples included HPV genotypes exclusively from the α-genus, mostly HPV16, in 80% of cases.


The distribution of α- and γ-HPV, but not β-HPV, seems to vary based on sociodemographic and behavioral characteristics. We did not observe the presence of cutaneous HPV in tumor tissues.

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