• human papillomavirus;
  • oral cancer;
  • oropharyngeal cancer;
  • risk factors

Objective:  An association between high-risk human papillomavirus (HR HPV) infection and a risk of development of a subgroup of head and neck cancers has been proposed recently. The main risk factors of oral and oropharyngal cancer observed in our population are smoking and alcohol consumption. The incidence of oral/oropharyngeal tumours in the Czech Republic is relatively high and there are no data available about the prevalence of HPV DNA presence in these tumours.

Materials and methods:  Eighty patients with a primary oropharyngeal cancer were enrolled. The presence of HPV DNA has been evaluated by polymerase chain reaction in 68 cases from which the tumour tissue and demographical and clinical data were available. The typing of HPV was performed by nucleotide DNA sequencing.

Results:  The HPV DNA was detected in 51.5% of samples tested. Among the HPV DNA positive tumours, 80% contained HPV16. In the analysed group there were 54 men and 14 women. The prevalence of HPV DNA was lower in oral (25%) than in oropharyngeal (57%) tumours, and higher in never smokers (100%) and never drinkers (68.8%). HPV DNA presence was not related to gender, age, number of lifetime sexual partners or practice of oral-genital sex, size of tumour or presence of regional metastases.

Conclusions:  The difference in the prevalence of HPV DNA positive tumours between cases of oral cavity and oropharyngeal carcinoma exposed and not exposed to tobacco or alcohol support the theory that HPV DNA positive tumours form an aetiologically distinct subgroup of head and neck tumours.