J Clin Pathol 56:174-181 doi:10.1136/jcp.56.3.174
  • Review

HPV infections in benign and malignant sinonasal lesions

  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 11 October 2002


This review updates the evidence that the human papillomavirus (HPV) is involved in the development of benign and malignant sinonasal lesions. Since the early 1980s, when evidence was provided on the possible involvement of HPV in the aetiology of both benign respiratory papillomas and squamous cell carcinomas, a substantial number of studies have explored this issue. To date, 33.3% of sinonasal papillomas and 21.7% of sinonasal carcinomas analysed have been shown to be positive for HPV. Many elements of the data parallel the observations made in HPV lesions at other mucosal sites, such as malignant transformation and frequent recurrence after radical treatment; the fact that low risk HPV types 6 and 11 are usually confined to benign lesions, whereas the reverse is true for the oncogenic HPV types 16 and 18; and the presence of squamo–columnar junctions and squamous cell metaplasia in the sinonasal system. The discrepancies reported by several studies might result in part from technical reasons, but it is also possible that sinonasal lesions have a heterogeneous aetiology (HPV related and non-related) and/or that some novel (yet unidentified) HPV types exist in these lesions, which are detected by some studies but not by others.