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Keywords:

  • actinic keratoses;
  • cutaneous;
  • human papillomavirus;
  • serology;
  • skin;
  • squamous cell carcinoma

Epidermodysplasia verruciformis-associated human papillomaviruses (EV-HPVs) are possibly involved in the development of actinic keratoses and may play a part in the pathogenesis of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin, as the DNA of these viruses is frequently detected in biopsies of such lesions. Properly designed epidemiological studies, using serological tests to investigate the role of infection with EV-HPVs in cutaneous oncogenesis, are still rare. An IgG-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay using virus-like particles composed of the major capsid protein L1 of the EV-specific HPV 8 (HPV 8 VLPs) was developed and used to test the seroprevalence of HPV 8 in 114 inhabitants of a tropical island, of whom 13 had developed SCC, and 19 had developed basal cell carcinoma. Gender, age, eye and hair colour, sun exposure and number of actinic keratoses were recorded for all individuals. The presence of antibodies against HPV 8 VLPs was associated with the development of large numbers of actinic keratoses. After adjusting for gender, age, eye and hair colour, and sun exposure, the odds ratio to develop 37 (the median in this dataset) or more actinic keratoses in the presence of antibodies against HPV 8 VLPs was 2·3 (95% confidence interval: 1·0; 5·3). Similarly, after adjustment for the same factors, the presence of these antibodies was associated with SCC with an odds ratio of 3·1 (0·74; 13·3), but the small number of individuals with SCC does not permit any definite conclusions. The presence of these antibodies did not appear to be associated with basal cell carcinoma as, after adjustment for the same factors, the odds ratio was 0·73 (0·23; 2·4). This study provides serological evidence that infection with EV-HPVs may play a part in the pathogenesis of actinic keratoses. The role of EV-HPVs in the development of SCC, however, remains to be elucidated.