Do smoking and human papilloma virus have a synergistic role in the development of head and neck cancer? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Head and Neck Cancer

Skoulakis A, et al. J BUON 2020.


PURPOSE: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), arising from the squamous epithelium, is the most common head and neck cancer (HNC). Smoking and alcohol are well known risk factors for HNSCC, while some high-risk human papilloma virus (HPV) subtypes were specifically identified as a high-risk factors for developing oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC). In this study, we have conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis in order to investigate the possible synergistic role of smoking and HPV in the development of HNSCC.

METHODS: We conducted a systematic search in two online databases PubMed and Cochrane Library, searching for studies published between 2010-2018. Sixteen studies met the inclusion criteria; a total of 2161 patients were included, comprising 1470 HPV-negative and 691 HPV-positive, respectively.

RESULTS: The number of smokers between HPV-positive HNSCC patients (group A) and HPV-negative HNSCC patients (group B) was compared. We have found that smokers in HPV-positive group were statistically significantly less than smokers in HPV-negative group (OR=0.33 with 95% CI 0.18, 0.61). The test for overall effect was Z =3.61 (p=0.0003).

CONCLUSION: Smoking is less common in HPV positive group than in HPV negative group, and so probably smoking does not play a major role in the pathogenesis of HPV-positive HNSCC as in the pathogenesis of HPV-negative HNSCC.