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Home Other HPV Cancers Other HPV Cancers Tobacco Use Impacts Oropharyngeal Cancers

Tobacco Use Impacts Oropharyngeal Cancers

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Research with patients at the University of Michigan finds patients with cancer of the oropharynx are much more likely to experience recurrences if they’ve ever used tobacco.

Head and neck cancers include those of the oral cavity, and most HPV-related head and neck cancers are of the oropharynx (tongue, soft palate, and tonsils). The American Cancer Society estimates there are about 34,000 cases of oropharyngeal cancer each year in the U.S. Heavy tobacco and alcohol use is strongly linked to these diseases, and “high risk” HPV is also thought to play a role with some oropharyngeal cancers.

To study the impact of tobacco use on recurrence with these diseases, Jessica Maxwell and colleagues followed 124 patients with oropharyngeal cancers between 1999 and 2007. HPV was detected in the tumors of 102 subjects (82%).

Among HPV-positive subjects, recurrence rates among those who had ever used tobacco was 35%, compared to only 6% in never users. Of the subjects with HPV-negative tumors, all had a history of tobacco use and disease recurred in half.


J Maxwell, B Kumar, F Feng, F Worden, J Lee, A Eisbruch, G Wolf, M Prince, J Moyer, T Teknos, D Chepeha, J McHugh, S Urba, J Stoerker, H Walline, D Kurnit, K Cordell, S Davis, P Ward, C Bradford, T Carey. Tobacco Use in Human Papillomavirus–Positive Advanced Oropharynx Cancer Patients Related to Increased Risk of Distant Metastases and Tumor Recurrence. Clinical Cancer Research, 2010. 16:1226-35.