Increase in HPV+ Oropharyngeal Cancers Suggests Both Sexes Should Be Vaccinated Interview with:

Steven Habbous MSc, PhD candidate Ontario Cancer Institute Scarborough, Ontario, Canada

Steven Habbous

Steven Habbous MSc, PhD candidate
Ontario Cancer Institute
Scarborough, Ontario, Canada What is the background for this study?

Response: Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a strong risk factor for oropharyngeal cancers (a subset of head and neck cancers). Because HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers generally respond well to treatment and may be prevented through HPV vaccination, it is critical to be able to accurately estimate the incidence and prevalence of this disease. Only recently, however, has testing for HPV become routine at most cancer centres across Canada.  As a result, attempts to estimate the growth of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer over time may be inaccurate. What are the main findings?

Response: In this study, we collected data on oropharyngeal cancer patients treated at cancer centres in Toronto, British Colombia, Halifax, Edmonton, and Calgary between 2000 and 2012.  We collected data on HPV if it was available.  When HPV data were missing (mostly missing towards the earlier years), we estimated the HPV status of each patient by using the known relationships between HPV, patient demographics, patient social history (smoking, alcohol use), and patient survival.  Including only patients with non-missing HPV data would result in biased and invalid estimates of HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers over time.

We found a steady rise in HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers across Canada, rising from about 47% in 2000 to 74% in 2012. What should policy makers take away from your report?

Response: HPV vaccination should be expanded to include both sexes.  This is expected to reduce the incidence of all cancers that are caused by HPV, and may help curb the rising incidence of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer. What should healthcare providers and administrators
take away from your report?

Response: HPV testing should be routine for oropharyngeal cancer diagnostics.  Cancer registries should actively collect this data to monitor the status of this disease across the country and to promote further research. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Future research should strive to identify the most accurate and cost-effective HPV testing assay for standardization across the country.  When data become available, future research should also explore the effects of HPV vaccination programs on HPV-related cancer incidence rates. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Steven Habbous, Karen P. Chu, Harold Lau, Melissa Schorr, Mathieos Belayneh, Michael N. Ha, Scott Murray, Brian O’Sullivan, Shao Hui Huang, Stephanie Snow, Matthew Parliament, Desiree Hao, Winson Y. Cheung, Wei Xu, and Geoffrey Liu

Human papillomavirus in oropharyngeal cancer in Canada: analysis of 5 comprehensive cancer centres using multiple imputation
CMAJ August 14, 2017 189:E1030-E1040; doi:10.1503/cmaj.161379

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.


[wysija_form id=”5″]






Last Updated on August 14, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD