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Abstract

Cancer of the cervix is relatively common in China, but has been investigated epidemiologically in only a few studies. In the hospital-based case-control study reported here, we investigated the role of various lifestyle and dietary factors, as well as infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) types 16 and 33 and herpes simplex virus type 2 in the aetiology of invasive cervical cancer. The study was conducted in Sichuan province, and involved 101 cases with histologically-confirmed cervical cancer recruited from the gynaecological oncology clinic of the West China University Hospital, and 146 controls recruited from patients attending the gynaecology clinic of the same hospital. Risk of cervical cancer was greatly increased in association with infection with HPV 16/33, the adjusted odds ratio for those with evidence of infection being 32.9 (95% Cl 7.7-141.1). In contrast, infection with HSV 2 was not associated with a significantly altered risk of cervical cancer. Indices of sexual history and of dietary habits also showed no association with risk of cervical cancer, while good personal and genital hygiene were associated with markedly reduced risk. Although the results of this study are consistent with a causal role for HPV in the aetiology of cervical cancer, bias or increased viral expression following malignant transformation cannot be excluded as explanations for the strong positive association.