Cytomegalovirus and cancer-related mortality in the national health and nutritional examination survey

Olasunmbo O. Okedele, Heather H. Nelson, Mosun L. Oyenuga, Bharat Thyagarajan, Anna Prizment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Purpose: Cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a common viral infection that shapes lifelong immunity. A history of infection with HCMV has been associated with many chronic diseases, including cancer. In addition, prospective cohort studies have established that HCMV is associated with all-cause mortality. However, there are limited data regarding HCMV and cancer mortality. Methods: Data were obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III study (1988–1994): subjects aged 18 to 98, who had HCMV serology results, did not report having cancer at baseline, and were eligible for mortality follow-up (n = 14,498). Mortality was ascertained until December 2011 using National Death Index (NDI) linkage. Results: The unadjusted risk of all-cancer mortality was higher in HCMV seropositive individuals (HR 2.74, 95% CI 2.05–3.64). This association was attenuated after adjusting for age (HR 1.39, 95% CI 1.02–1.92), and other covariates (age, sex, race/ethnicity, smoking status, BMI, education, and C-reactive protein (CRP); HR 1.21, 95% CI 0.91–1.81). There was a statistically significant interaction between HCMV and sex (p = 0.01): HCMV seropositivity was associated with increased cancer mortality in men (HR 1.65, 95% CI 0.99–2.73) but not in women (HR 0.95, 95% CI 0.59–1.54). Conclusion(s): Consistent with prior reports, HCMV seropositivity may be associated with an increased risk of cancer-related mortality but the association is partially driven by socioeconomic status and other risk factors. Future research is needed to determine whether HCMV is a risk factor for cancer, as well as identify the specific cancer types where HCMV increases mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-547
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Causes and Control
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Cancer
  • Cancer mortality
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Mortality
  • Seropositivity


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