An integrated study on the role of human papillomaviruses (HPV) in cervical cancer has been conducted. Out of a total of 433 cases of cervical cancer, HPV-DNA was detected in 342 (79%) using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The incidence of HPV infection was not significantly related to histological types, although a lower incidence was noted in adenocarcinonu cases. The incidence of lymph node (LN) metastasis in adenosquamous carcinoma (55.6%) was significantly higher than in squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and adenocarcinoma. HPV 16 was detected significantly more often in SCC than in adenocarcinoma. In contrast, HPV 18 was detected more often in adenocarcinoma than in SCC. As a whole, pelvic LN metastases were found in 24.3% of HPV+ cases, significantly higher than 11% of HPV cases. However, the significant association of HPV-DNA with LN metastasis was only noted in stage I but not stage II. As far as histological types were concerned, the incidence of positive LN was; HPV+ SCC >HPV- SCC (p < 0.01), whereas HPV adenocarcinoma > HPV+ adenocarcinoma (p = 0.12). Genotypes of HPV did not have any effect on nodal status. The presence and types of HPV were not associated with tumor size and distribution of clinical stage. Our results suggest that the prognostic significance of HPV-DNA on nodal status is dependent on histological types while the genotypes of HPV cannot account for prognostic significance in cervical cancer. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.