Despite a higher risk for human papillomavirus (HPV)-negative orophayngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC), poor oral health appears to be associated with OPSCC regardless of HPV status, a study published in the journal Cancer has shown.1

Although poor oral health, including smoking, have been linked to an increased risk for developing head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, including OPSCC, the impact of HPV status on the association between poor oral health and OPSCC cancer risk remains unclear.

For the study, investigators analyzed data from the large population-based Carolina Head and Neck Cancer (CHANCE) case-control study, which included 102 patients with HPV-positive OPSCC, 145 patients with HPV-negative OPSCC, and 1396 controls.

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Results showed that routine dental examinations were associated with a 48% reduced risk of HPV-negative OPSCC (odds ratio [OR], 0.52; 95% CI, 0.35-0.76) and a 45% reduced risk of HPV-positive OPSCC (OR, 0.55; 95% CI, 0.36-0.86).

Investigators found that tooth mobility, which is an indicator for periodontal disease, increased the risk of HPV-negative OPSCC by 70% (OR, 1.70; 95% CI, 1.18-2.43) and HPV-positive disease by 45% (OR, 1.45; 95% CI, 0.95-2.20).

Cigarette smoking for 10 or more pack-years was strongly associated with an increased risk of HPV-negative OPSCC (OR, 4.26; 95% CI, 2.85-6.37), and to a lesser extent, HPV-positive disease (OR, 1.62; 95% CI, 1.10-2.38).

Further investigation is necessary to better understand the associations between poor oral health, tobacco use, and HPV in the pathogenesis of OPSCC.


1. Mazul AL, Taylor JM, Divaris K, et al. Oral health and human papillomavirus-associated head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Cancer. 2016 Aug 29. doi: 10.1002/cncr.30312. [Epub ahead of print]