Human papillomavirus (HPV) is thought to cause cervical cancer because remnants of the virus have been found in around 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. However, the evidence is unclear about whether or not HPV infection by itself is enough to cause cervical cancer.
And, of course, it is important to note that 30 percent of cervical cancers show no signs of HPV infection.
Years ago, researchers published an article in the journal Molecular Cytogenetics questioning whether cervical cancers were being caused by HPV infections. They argued that the theory that HPV causes cervical cancer does not stand up to scientific scrutiny. This theory holds that somehow after 20 to 50 years of exposure, HPV (along with other unknown cofactors) triggers cervical cancer.
The authors studied the hypothesis that all cancers are individual species for each particular patient, with each cancer containing its own unique genetic markers. In other words, not all cervical cancers are the same; rather, each has its own individual genetic makeup consisting of unique DNA and RNA.
If HPV was responsible for causing the majority of cervical cancers, you would not expect each cancer to have unique genetic components — they would be similar to HPV’s genetic makeup.
The researchers further hypothesized that non-HPV carcinogens are responsible for inducing genetic changes that cause normal cells to multiply out of control. They analyzed samples of nine cervical cancers for their genetic materials. Seven of the nine specimens contained residual DNA from HPV.
But that doesn’t mean that HPV caused those cancers. It could mean that HPV was once present and hadn’t been detected. Two of the nine specimens did not even contain DNA from HPV.
The most important point to come out of this study is that each cervical cancer examined had its own unique DNA. The authors suggested that the altered genetic markers were the result of damage or changes to normal DNA by some kind of carcinogen. If that theory is true, the authors claimed that a vaccine against HPV “. . . will have no effect on the occurrence of cervical [cancers].”
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