The association between viral human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA and cervical carcinoma has been well documented. However, less is known about the immune response to HPV infections and its relationship to cervical cancer risk. A higher prevalence of antibodies to HPV16 E7 among women with cervical cancer compared with controls has been reported, but reactivity to other antigens has not been systematically examined. Prevalence of serum IgG antibody reactivities to HPV6-encoded L1 and L2 and to HPV16- and HPV18-encoded E2, E4, E6, E7, L1, and L2 bacterial fusion proteins in a Western immunoblot assay were measured among cases with invasive cervical cancer (n = 69) and control women (n = 81). The intensities of the Western blot bands were graded as +1, +2, or +3 (0 = negative). Antibodies to HPV6 L1 and L2, HPV16 E7 and L2, and HPV18 L2 fusion proteins were observed among 39-62% of cases and 33-71% of controls. After systematic sampling for antibody reactivity to this range of fusion proteins, the sample was expanded to include 150 cases and 145 controls tested exclusively for reaction to HPV6 L1 and L2, HPV16 E7, and HPV16 and HPV18 L2. Relative risk was estimated for > or = +1, +1, and > or = +2 levels of reactivity after adjustment for confounding factors. Except for HPV16 E7, reactivity at the > or = +1 level did not distinguish cases from controls.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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