There could be a causal link between human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and prostate cancer, a systematic literature analysis of 26 studies suggests. The data published in the journal »Infectious Agents and Cancer” show, on the one hand, an increase in HPV infections in men who have prostate cancer. On the other hand, in countries where cervical cancer mortality was high, prostate cancer mortality is also high. In countries where cervical cancer mortality is low, prostate cancer mortality is also low.
The researchers write that HPV infection, directly or indirectly through the immune system, could initiate the development of cancer. However, it is also possible that the viruses interact with other pathogens and promote tumor formation. The role of HPV in prostate cancer is very complex and differs from HPV-associated cervical cancer, the authors note.
Previous publications have suggested that HPV has an impact on the development of prostate cancer. But: “These are all association studies, a truly scientific proof is still pending,” says Michael Muders, Director of the Rudolf-Becker-Laboratory for Prostate Cancer Research and Chief Physician of Pathology at the Center for Pathology, University Hospital Bonn (Germany). Although the study now presented had applied “more stringent criteria” than in the previous meta-analyses, there is still no “substantial scientific proof,” he says. Only cell culture studies and animal experiments could provide this. Muders therefore emphasizes, like the authors, that no recommendations for action can yet be made.
HPV is the most common STI in the United States. Vaccination is recommended not only for girls, but also for boys. However, this is mainly due to the fact that HPV is sexually transmitted and that vaccination in boys also protects girls. However, there is also evidence that HPV infection generally has a cancer-promoting effect and contributes, for example, to tumor formation in the mouth and throat. “I think it is important to draw attention to the link between viral infection and cancer risk,” says Peter Hammerer, Head of the Urological Clinic of the Braunschweig Municipal Hospital and member of the Board of the European Urological Cancer Society (ESOU). “It is likely that prophylactic vaccination can reduce the risk of HPV-induced carcinoma.” For this reason, he considers it useful to refer to vaccination in boys as well.