New research funded by National Breast Cancer Foundation has discovered that a sub-set of breast cancers could potentially be linked to the human papilloma virus (HPV).
The study, by Emeritus Professor James Lawson and his colleagues from the University of NSW, aimed to identify whether women who contract HPV are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer later on in life. Their findings support an increasing body of evidence that point to HPV having a role in a subset of breast cancers.
Professor Lawson explains, “HPV is known to cause cancer in the cervix and other genital areas, but it is also thought to play a role in the development of some breast cancers.
“The purpose of our study was to fill important gaps in the evidence by identifying the presence of HPV in breast cancers, in benign breast tissues and identifying if HPVs are biologically active in breast cancer. We found high-risk HPV gene sequences to be present and active in some breast cancers.”
The mode of transmission of HPV to the breast is not known. However, it is possible that HPVs are transmitted to the genital tract during sexual activities and later transmitted by white blood cells throughout the body, including the breasts.
Professor Lawson added, “Some things are already known about the prevalence of HPV in breast cancer, which provides clues for future research. For example, there is a higher prevalence in younger women (most likely due to higher rate of sexual activity), and the same type of HPV occurs in women who have contracted both cervical and breast cancers suggesting a common infection.”
While the outcome of the study is not 100 per cent conclusive, the findings strongly support the growing evidence linking HPV to breast cancer.
“The challenge remains to fully understand the role HPV plays in causing cancer.”
Jackie Coles, NBCF Acting CEO adds, “The importance of this avenue of research lies in the potential for preventative measures for some types of breast cancer. In particular, the high-risk HPVs that have been identified in breast cancers are the same types as those for which the cervical cancer vaccine is effective.
“The availability and widespread use of vaccines, which can effectively control high-risk HPV infections, may result in a decrease of HPV associated breast cancer.”
The report Human Papilloma Viruses and Breast Cancer was published in Frontiers in Oncology.
[hr] Source: NBCF
About the National Breast Cancer Foundation
The National Breast Cancer Foundation is the leading community-funded organisation in Australia raising money for research into the prevention and cure of breast cancer. Since NBCF was established in 1994, more than $127 million has been awarded to about 430 Australian-based research projects to improve the health and wellbeing of those affected by breast cancer.
When NBCF was founded in 1994, the five year-survival rate for women with breast cancer was 76%; it is now close to 90%, due largely to research.
For more information, visit www.nbcf.org.au