Background: Penile carcinoma is an uncommon and potentially mutilating disease with a heterogeneous aetiology. Several risk factors have been established for its development. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection seems to play an important role in the development of a subset of these carcinomas and its presence is thought to be related to the histological type. HPV prevalence in penile tumours is reported to be associated to a variety of morphological changes. Its determination will provide a better estimate for HPV related cancer burden and its preventable fraction.
Methods: A systematic and comprehensive literature review of the major penile cancer studies published from 1986 until June 2008 evaluating the HPV prevalence among the different histological types was carried out.
Results: 31 studies including 1466 penile carcinomas were reviewed. Global HPV prevalence was 46.9%. Relative contribution was: HPV-16 (60.23%), HPV-18 (13.35%), HPV-6/11 (8.13%), HPV-31 (1.16%), HPV-45 (1.16%), HPV-33 (0.97%), HPV-52 (0.58%), other types (2.47%). Assessment of multiple infections contribution is limited due to study design. Basaloid and warty squamous cell carcinomas were the most frequent HPV-related histological types, but keratinising and non-keratinising subtypes also showed prevalence rates of around 50%.
Conclusions: About half of the penile tumours were associated with HPV 16–18 with little presence of other genotypes. Research on the mechanisms behind penile carcinogenesis is warranted. Available HPV vaccines are likely to be effective in penile tumours.
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