New technology adds weight to viral cancer link

In collaboration with the Press Association

New research from the US has provided more evidence that certain strains of Human papillomavirus (HPV) may be linked to a form of non-melanoma skin cancer.

The latest study, conducted by the Norris Cotton Cancer Centre at Dartmouth Medical School in the US, used new technology to reveal traces of HPV in skin cancer samples.

The technique, called 'multiplex serology', uses lasers to look for many different strains of virus in a single sample, and is a major advance in the field.

The team found that people with a form of non-melanoma skin cancer called 'squamous cell carcinoma' were more likely to have signs of HPV infection than control subjects or people with a different form of the disease, basal cell carcinoma.

A Cancer Research UK spokesperson commented: "This research builds on our current knowledge. The technology the team used is very exciting - it allows scientists to test for many strains of HPV at once.

"The picture that's emerging as a result of this study, and other work like that of the Cancer Research UK-funded team at Bart's in London, is that HPV plays a small but significant role in some types of skin cancer.

"What is clear is that the main cause of skin cancer is excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV). HPV viruses may assist UV in causing cancer, but it is very much a secondary role," he added.

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer in the UK.

Official figures have over 65,400 cases diagnosed in the UK in 2001. But this figure is an underestimate as registration is generally incomplete.

Find out more about non-melanoma skin cancer