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Human papillomavirus genotype distribution in tonsil cancers

Jean Lacau St Guily1*, Christine Clavel2, Claire Okaïs3, Jean-Luc Prétet4, Agnès Beby-Defaux5, Gérard Agius5, Philippe Birembaut2, Anne-Carole Jacquard3, Yann Léocmach3, Benoît Soubeyrand3, Didier Riethmuller46, François Denis7 and Christiane Mougin4

Author Affiliations

1 Service d'Oto-rhino-laryngologie et chirurgie cervico-faciale, Hôpital Tenon, Université Paris 6 et Faculté de Médecine Pierre-et-Marie Curie, Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris, Paris, France

2 INSERM UMRS 903, CHU Reims, Université de Reims, Laboratoire Pol-Bouin, Reims, France

3 Sanofi Pasteur MSD, Lyon, France

4 Univ Franche Comte, Besançon, France; CHU Besançon, Besançon, France

5 CNRS UMR 6187, CHU de Poitiers, Laboratoire de Virologie, Université de Poitiers, Poitiers, France

6 Service de Gynécologie-Obstétrique, CHU Saint Jacques, Besançon, France

7 Laboratoire de Bactériologie et Virologie, CHU Dupuytren, Limoges, France

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Head & Neck Oncology 2011, 3:6  doi:10.1186/1758-3284-3-6

Published: 7 February 2011



The incidence of tonsil cancers has increased in several countries. French data on HPV prevalence in tonsil cancers are scarce. The objective of this study was thus to assess the overall and type specific HPV prevalence in tonsil histological samples.


This French retrospective multicenter study involved 12 centres located throughout the country. Were included 185 histological samples collected from year 2000 to 2009 with a validated diagnosis of tonsil invasive carcinomas. HPV prevalence was studied according to gender, age and histological type of cancer.


Overall HPV prevalence was 57% in tonsil cancers. Mean age of diagnosis was comparable in HPV positive tonsils cases (60 ± 11.2) and HPV negative tonsil cases (59 ± 9.6). HPV prevalence was significantly higher in female than in male cases (28/35 versus 78/150 in tonsil cases, respectively, P = 0.003). About 53% of tonsil cases were infected by a single HPV type. Only eight (4%) samples were infected by more than one HPV type. Among HPV positive samples, HPV 16 was found in 89% of tonsil cases. All other HPV types had prevalence below 5%.


Our results indicate that HPV is common in tonsil carcinomas and emphasize the predominant role of HPV 16.