The etiological role of human papillomavirus (HPV) in cervical cancer has been well established. However, it is inconclusive whether HPV plays the same role in esophageal carcinogenesis. In this study, we detected HPV infection in 145 frozen esophageal tissues, including 30 normal epithelium (ENOR), 37 dysplasia (DYS) and 78 invasive squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), and in 143 frozen cervical tissues composed of 30 normal epithelium (CNOR), 38 intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and 75 invasive squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC). The patients and symptom-free subjects enrolled in this study were from a high-incidence area for both ESCC and CSCC, Linzhou City, Northern China, from 2007 to 2009. The HPV infection analysis was conducted by using an HPV GenoArray Test Kit. We found that the high-risk HPV types accounted for more than 90 % of the HPV-positive lesions of esophagus and cervix tissues. The prevalence of high-risk HPV types increased significantly during the progression of both esophageal and cervical carcinogenesis (positive rate in esophageal tissues: 33 % ENOR, 70 % in DYS and 69 % in ESCC; positive rate in cervical tissues: 27 % in CNOR, 82 % in CIN and 88 % in CSCC; P < 0.001, respectively). Infection with the high-risk HPV types increased the risk for both DYS and ESCC by 4-fold (DYS vs. ENOR: OR = 4.73, 95 %CI = 1.68-13.32; ESCC vs. ENOR: OR = 4.50, 95 %CI = 1.83-11.05) and increased the risk for both CIN and CSCC by 12-fold and 20-fold (CIN vs. CNOR: OR = 12.18, 95 %CI = 3.85-38.55; CSCC vs. CNOR: OR = 20.17, 95 %CI = 6.93-58.65), respectively. The prevalence of high-risk types in ESCC patients was lower than that in CSCC patients (P = 0.005) and was significantly associated with the degree of ESCC tumor infiltration (P = 0.001). HPV 16 was the most prevalent subtype in both esophageal and cervical tissues. Single HPV infection increased significantly along with the progression of ESCC and maintained a high level in cervical tissues, regardless of whether they were CNOR or CSCC tissues. Our results showed that infection with HPV, especially the high-risk types, was positively associated with both esophageal and cervical cancers, suggesting that HPV also plays a role in the etiology of ESCC in the high-incidence area.
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