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HPV Could Lead to Lung Cancer, Study

Update Date: Apr 11, 2013 11:21 AM EDT

Human papillomavirus (HPV) may be linked to the development of lung cancer.

HPV is already known to cause cervical cancer, along with head and neck cancers. Now researchers conducting a small study say it can be the cause of some lung cancers.

The study examined 36 tumor tissue samples from patients with non-small-cell lung cancer who have never smoked. Lung cancer in non-smokers is difficult to pinpoint, as smoking is often a major cause.

Researchers found that about 6 percent of the tissue samples displayed signs of infection from HPV 16 and HPV 18. Both of these strains are known to cause cancer.

When the tissue samples infected with HPV 16 were further examined, it was evident the virus had integrated into the tumor's DNA. Researchers said this provides strong evidence that the HPV infection was responsible for causing the tumor.

The study was presented Wednesday, April 9th at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in Washington, D.C. and should be regarded as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

This study did not prove a cause-and-effect link between HPV and lung cancer, although it is confirmed that HPV plays a role in some cases of lung cancer. The next step is to learn more about the tumors in order to treat them more effectively, according to researchers from the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

Lung cancer kills more than 1 million people a year. About 10 percent of lung cancer cases occur in nonsmokers, according to Health Day News.

"Given how many patients develop lung cancer, if even a small percentage of those tumors stem from HPV, that ends up being a large number of patients," said study author Dr. Ranee Mehra, physician in medical oncology at Fox Chase. 

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