Age-related changes of the cervix influence human papillomavirus type distribution

Philip E. Castle, Jose Jeronimo, Mark Schiffman, Rolando Herrero, Ana C. Rodríguez, M. Concepción Bratti, Allan Hildesheim, Sholom Wacholder, L. Rodney Long, Leif Neve, Ruth Pfeiffer, Robert D. Burk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Approximately 15 human papillomavirus (HPV) types cause virtually all cervical cancer whereas other HPV types are unrelated to cancer. We were interested in whether some noncarcinogenic types differ from carcinogenic in their affinity for the cervical transformation zone, where nearly all HPV-induced cancers occur. To examine this possibility, we tested cervical specimens from 8,374 women without cervical precancer and cancer participating in a population-based study in Guanacaste for >40 HPV types using PCR. We compared age-group specific prevalences of HPV types of the α9 species, which are mainly carcinogenic and include HPV16, to the genetically distinct types of the α3/α15 species (e.g., HPV71), which are noncarcinogenic and common in vaginal specimens from hysterectomized women. We related HPV detection of each group to the location of the junction between the squamous epithelium of the ectocervix and vagina and the columnar epithelium of the endocervical canal. Models evaluated the independent effects of amount of exposed columnar epithelium (ectopy) and age on the presence of α9 or α3/α15 types. Prevalence of α9 types (7.6%) peaked in the youngest women, declined in middle-aged women, and then increased slightly in older women. By contrast, prevalence of α3/α15 types (7.6%) tended to remain invariant or to increase with increasing age. Detection of α9 infections increased (Ptrend < 0.0005) but α3/α15 infections decreased (Ptrend < 0.0005) with increasing exposure of the columnar epithelia. Older age and decreasing cervical ectopy were independently positively associated with having an α3/α15 infection compared with having an α9 infection. These patterns need to be confirmed in other studies and populations. We suggest that these genetically distinct groups of HPV types may differ in tissue preferences, which may contribute to their differences in carcinogenic potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1218-1224
Number of pages7
JournalCancer research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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