It has now been established that infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) is necessary for the development of most cervical cancers. HPV is not sufficient for the development of cancer. Other exposures or host factors are necessary for cancer to occur. As part of an ongoing, population-based case-control study of invasive cervical cancer, we investigated the role of cigarette smoking, oral contraceptive (OC) use, and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) as potential cofactors with HPV in the development of cervical cancer. Residents of three counties in western Washington State who were diagnosed with invasive squamous cell cervical cancer (n = 314) from January 1986 through December 1992 were interviewed about their sexual, reproductive, contraceptive, and cigarette smoking histories. Similar information was obtained from control women identified through random digit dialing (n = 672). The sera from 206 cases and 522 controls were tested for both HPV 16 capsid antibodies and HSV-2 antibodies. PCR was used to test paraffin-embedded tumor tissues for the presence of HPV DNA types 6, 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, and 39. Women with cervical cancer were more likely to be current smokers at diagnosis than population controls [relative risk (RR), 2.5; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.8-3.4]. The risk associated with smoking was present to a similar extent among women positive and negative for HPV as measured by HPV 16 capsid antibodies and HPV DNA in the tumor tissue (cases). OC use was only important if first use was at an early age, particularly ages < or = 17 years (RR, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.4-3.8). There was only a slight risk for cervical cancer associated with antibodies to HSV-2 (RR, 1.2; 95% CI, 0.9-1.7). However, when we stratified by markers of HPV exposure, we found a significant increase in risk associated with HSV-2 among women negative for HPV 16 antibodies (RR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.3-3.0), which was strengthened when we confined our analysis to cases whose tumors were HPV DNA negative (RR, 3.6; 95% CI, 1.6-8.0). There was no indication that cigarette smoking, OC use, or HSV-2 infection influence the ability of HPV infection to cause invasive cervical cancer. OC use may only be important in the etiology of invasive squamous cell cervical tumors if the use occurs at a critical time in the development of a woman's reproductive tract, at ages < or = 17 years. The majority of risk associated with HSV-2 was confined to HPV-negative tumors, indicating a possible separate pathway to disease that may account for 5-10% of invasive cervical cancers.

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