Human papillomavirus serology and tobacco smoking in a community control group

Karl T. Kelsey, Heather H. Nelson, Stephanie Kim, Michael Pawlita, Scott M. Langevin, Melissa Eliot, Dominique S. Michaud, Michael McClean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: HPV infection is an established risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer, and it has been proposed that cigarette smoking may potentiate HPV infection in the oral epithelium. We sought to test the hypothesis that cigarette smoking increases HPV infection in an HPV16 serology study of cancer-free individuals. Methods: Subjects were participants in a risk factor study for head and neck cancer, and were required to have no prior history of either HNSCC or any other cancer. Tobacco use and other risk factor data were gathered through interviewer-assisted questionnaires, while serology was conducted in a blinded fashion using a glutathione S-transferase capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect antibodies against HPV16 L1, E1, E2, E4, E6 and E7 proteins. The differences in tobacco use by HPV serology were evaluated by ANOVA; and the reported odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were determined by using unconditional logistic regression. Results: We found no overall association of HPV16 serological markers with smoking. However, when the data were stratified by median age, smoking was positively associated with seropositivity for the HPV16 L1 capsid antigen in the younger controls while the older controls were less likely to be HPV16 L1 positive if they smoked (p < 0.002). There was no similar association of smoking and age with serological response to the early proteins (i.e E6, E7). Conclusions: Exposure to HPV16 capsid protein (L1) is increased among relatively younger adults who smoke and diminished among older smokers. However, this pattern is not accompanied by a differential susceptibility for active infection (as determined by the early gene proteins such as E6 and E7) among young and older smokers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8
JournalBMC infectious diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 9 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Cancer Institute [R01CA121147, R01CA100679, and R01CA078609 to K.T.K.]; National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences [T32ES07272 to S.M.L.].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Kelsey et al.; licensee BioMed Central.


  • HPV
  • Serology
  • Smoking


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