HPV Again

A recent article about HPV – Human Papillomavirus -begins with a question and an answer:

Question: Does HPV Cause Lung Cancer?
Answer: Maybe
What? Maybe not caused by smoking?? It quickly goes on to say that: 
 
In fact, in a 2008 review of 53 studies published in the journal Lung Cancer, the authors state that HPV may be the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking, and additional research on this issue is strongly needed…
 
HPV is now well-established as playing a role in most cases of cervical cancer, as well as many cases of vulvar, penile, and anal cancers. It is also being implicated in some cases of oral cancer, especially those occurring in young, non-smoking women.
It’s very interesting that smoking ’causes’ lung cancer, but HPV only ‘plays a role’ in cervical cancer. If anything, the truth is the other way round.  And smoking plays a role in lung cancer, and HPV causes cervical cancer. If HPV did not cause cervical cancer, one would have to wonder what was the point of immunizing young women against it.

80% or more of cases of cervical cancer show evidence of HPV infection. It was the belief of the pioneer of the study of HPV that, if people looked hard enough, HPV would be found in all cases. By contrast, only 25% of lung cancer cases in the USA show evidence of HPV, while in Japan this figure rises to 80% – the same sort of order as HPV in cervical cancer -.

The jury is still out, but it seems that a great deal of research effort is now going into the viral and bacterial causes of cancer, and the evidence is already looking quite strong. But it raises the question of how the medical establishment will deal with the revelation that lung cancer is caused by a virus, and not by smoking. Are they, for example, going to say, "We were wrong," give tobacco a clean bill of health, and call halt the global persecution of smokers?

One answer is provided by CRUK on cervical cancer. It recognises the primary role of HPV in cervical cancer, but goes on to assert that smoking increases the risk.
 

If you smoke, you are more likely to develop squamous cell cervical cancer. Researchers have found cancer causing chemicals (benzyrene) from cigarette smoke in the cervical mucus of women who smoke. They think that these chemicals damage the cervix. 
Benzyrene is presumable the carcinogen 3,4-Benz[a]pyrene. It’s true that benzpyrene is found in cigarette smoke. What the article neglects to mention is that it is also the product of the combustion of diesel, coal, wood, charcoal, leaves, and animal tissues. In short, benzpyrene is pretty ubiquitous stuff. If benzpyrene damages the cervix, it is far from clear that the source is cigarette smoke alone.

But the point of the exercise by CRUK is to retain smoking as an ancillary cause of cervical cancer. And this is probably the line that will be adopted if lung cancer is shown to be caused by HPV. Smoking will be retained as a risk factor. Smokers will be told that they have twice or three times the risk of contracting lung cancer if they smoke. Or some other figure plucked out of the air. Smoking will no longer be the primary cause of lung cancer, but it will continue to be one of the causes.

Another reason why smoking is unlikely to be given a clean bill of health is because it has been indicted as a cause not only of lung cancer, but of heart disease and more or less every other disease that afflicts humanity, including toenail fungus.

In addition, if HPV is found to cause lung cancer, it will simply not be reported in the mainstream media, who are as wedded to the idea that smoking causes lung cancer as they are to the idea that CO2 causes global warming.

So, if HPV is found to cause lung cancer, there will be no let-up in the war on smokers. The justifications for the war will just change subtly, a bit like the reasons for the Iraq war. And the war on smoking is, in the end, a moral crusade rather than a medical crusade. It is part of a century-long War on Drugs. For the righteous, tobacco and alcohol are not essentially different from cannabis and opium and other proscribed drugs. They’ve just two that have managed to evade the forces of law and order so far. In the bright future of the righteous, all will be prohibited. They are most certainly not going to allow changing understandings of the causes of cancer to halt their moral crusade.

Earlier article of mine on HPV

UPDATE:  28 April 2009 ABC report: Study links HPV to lung cancer.
Smokershistory: HPV causes lung cancer

Update: Jan 2011 BBC report.

“There are two types or strains of HPV which are most likely to cause cancer – HPV-16 and HPV-18.

HPV-16 is thought to be responsible for around 60% of cervical cancers, 80% of cancers in the anus and 60% of oral cancers.”

Also Is Oral Sex Safe?, a one hour BBC 3 programme.

About Frank Davis

smoker
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7 Responses to HPV Again

  1. Anonymous says:

    From Junican.
    Frank,
    It would be lovely if you could arrange for your comments section to be similar to Dick Puddlecote’s – whereby one can insert one’s name before posting a comment, along with an ‘anti-spam’ code-word system. Would such a thing be expensive?
    Anyway, as regards HPV, it may well be that this virus is a ’cause’ of cancer in the sense that it damages the ‘cell death’ system of one’s body and, in effect, keeps dead cells ‘alive’. (I must admit that I do not know what I am talking about really, but it makes sense to me).
    I hate to say it, but it may well be that smoking produces in the lungs, as a result of mucus and stuff, the right sort of conditions for this virus to thrive. But then again, there are all sorts of pollutants in the air which could produce the conditions in the lungs, besides smoking, which are good for the HPV virus. And then again, there is the question of dosage. Medical science has always recognised the significance of dosage and so it is manifestly wrong for a doctor/scientist to say that ‘there is no such thing as a safe exposure to cigarette smoke’.
    I am so disenchanted by politicians that it would not surprise me if I found out that serious investigation of HPV was being blocked by the Government for political reasons.
    It comes back to the same thing – our whole political system stinks – and there is no obvious obvious answer to the problem since the system is self-perpetuating.

  2. Frank Davis says:

    I’d love to have a similar sort of system as Dick Puddlecote’s, or Taking Liberties. But what I have is what comes as standard with Livejournal’s free version. Leg-iron uses Livejournal as well, and has been doing so for a year or more, and has the same difficulty. And I started this blog by accident by getting into a bit of a spat with him!
    All that I can recommend that you do is either get yourself your own Livejournal blog (I think you may have done this, but you didn’t call it Junican, but something else). Or you can get yourself an openID in the name of Junican. That might be better.
    One day these things will probably all be standardised. Not yet, however…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Benzpyrene
    Hi Frank, I hope you are well.
    Benzpyrene is a 5 ring Benzene molecule (thanks Google), C20 H12. Benzene it self is a class A carcinogen and constitutes by volume 0.5% of petrol and diesel. That is the probable source for cervical cancer. On Benz(a)pyrene if you were in a 100 m3 room, sealed and unventilated, to reach passive smoking danger levels you would need to be surrounded by 222,000 smokers.
    Smokers breathe in 500x more smoke, so for us to reach danger levels we would have to be smoking simultaneously 222,000/500 = 445 cigarettes.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m Dave Atherton
    Sorry did not piut my name on the above post.

  5. Frank Davis says:

    Re: I’m Dave Atherton
    Benzene it self is a class A carcinogen and constitutes by volume 0.5% of petrol and diesel. That is the probable source for cervical cancer.
    I think that cervical cancer has been pretty much nailed down as being caused by HPV. They even have a vaccine for it these days. For once, I don’t think they’re wrong. But if they are wrong, they’ll be finding their vaccine doesn’t work.

  6. Pingback: New and Old Epidemics | Frank Davis

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