Review Article

Human papillomavirus tumor infection in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma

Ethan B. Ludmir, Sarah J. Stephens, Manisha Palta, Christopher G. Willett, Brian G. Czito


The association between human papillomavirus (HPV) and esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) has been recognized for over three decades. Recently, multiple meta-analyses have drawn upon existing literature to assess the strength of the HPV-ESCC linkage. Here, we review these analyses and attempt to provide a clinically-relevant overview of HPV infection in ESCC. HPV-ESCC detection rates are highly variable across studies. Geographic location likely accounts for a majority of the variation in HPV prevalence, with high-incidence regions including Asia reporting significantly higher HPV-ESCC infection rates compared with low-incidence regions such as Europe, North America, and Oceania. Based on our examination of existing data, the current literature does not support the notion that HPV is a prominent carcinogen in ESCC. We conclude that there is no basis to change the current clinical approach to ESCC patients with respect to tumor HPV status.

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