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Classification of weakly carcinogenic human papillomavirus types: addressing the limits of epidemiology at the borderline

Mark Schiffman1*, Gary Clifford2 and Franco M Buonaguro3

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, US National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, 20892, USA

2 International Agency for Research on Cancer, F-69372 Lyon cedex 08, France

3 Unit of Viral Oncogenesis and Immunotherapy, Istituto Nazionale Tumori, "Fond G. Pascale", Naples, Italy

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Infectious Agents and Cancer 2009, 4:8  doi:10.1186/1750-9378-4-8

Published: 1 June 2009


Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by persistent infections with a restricted set of human papillomaviruses (HPV). Some HPV types, like HPV16 and HPV18, are clear and powerful carcinogens. However, the categorization of the most weakly carcinogenic HPV types is extremely challenging. The decisions are important for screening test and vaccine development. This article describes for open discussion an approach recently taken by a World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs Working Group to re-assess the carcinogenicity of different HPV types.