J Clin Pathol 55:721-728 doi:10.1136/jcp.55.10.721
  • Review

HPV infections and oesophageal cancer

  1. K J Syrjänen
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor K Syrjänen, Unità di Citoistopatologia, Laboratorio di Epidemiologia e Biostatistica, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena, 299, I-00161 Roma, Italy;
  • Accepted 18 April 2002


The first reports suggesting an involvement of human papillomavirus (HPV) in the development of both benign and malignant squamous cell tumours of the oesophagus date back to 1982. Since then, a substantial amount of literature has accumulated on this subject, summarised in this review. To date, 239 oesophageal squamous cell papillomas have been analysed in 29 separate studies using different HPV detection methods, with HPV being detected in 51 (21.3%) cases. Many more squamous cell carcinomas have been analysed: of the 1485 squamous cell carcinomas analysed by in situ hybridisation, 22.9% were positive for HPV DNA, as were 15.2% of the 2020 cases tested by the polymerase chain reaction. In addition, evidence derived from large scale serological studies, animal experiments, and in vitro studies is discussed in the light of the highly variable geographical incidence rates of oesophageal carcinoma worldwide. It may be that the (multifactorial) aetiology of oesophageal cancer differs greatly between those geographical areas with a low risk and those with a high risk for this disease. Oncogenic HPV types seem to play an important causal role, particularly in high risk areas.