Individuals suffering from both, the gum disease periodontitis and human papillomavirus (HPV) have a greater risk of developing tongue cancer.
In a newly conducted research, at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, experts noted that the two infections work together as a deadly duo to raise the risk of cancer.
The latest revelations put previous studies in question, which stated that HPV and periodontitis were independent risk factors for tongue cancer.
The findings were presented by Dr. Mine Tezal, assistant professor in the UB dental school and research scientist at Roswell Park Cancer Institute at the 2008 American Association of Dental research meeting in Dallas. She said, “Evidence of periodontitis-HPV synergy has important practical implications because there is a safe treatment for periodontitis, but no treatment for HPV infection.”
The study analyzed 30 patients suffering from squamous cell carcinoma on the base of the tongue. It was revealed that 90 percent of patients with HPV-positive tumors had periodontitis, and 79 percent of patients whose tumors showed no presence of HPV did not have periodontitis.
Though most people do get an HPV infection at some time or the other in their lives, in most cases it gets cured and causes no lasting harm. However, this strongly depends on the immune system of the victim. The authors of the study believe that constant infection plays a key part in the development of cancer.
“The identification of factors that influence the persistence of HPV infection is critical to facilitate efforts to prevent head and neck cancers,” noted Tezal.
Tezal further added that the latest study shows that chronic inflammation and co-infection with oral bacteria may be important factors in the natural history of HPV infection.