Cervical Cancer Risk Increases with HPV and Herpes Coinfection

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HSV and HPV coinfection

Genital herpes increases the risk of cervical cancer, which kills thousands of women every year, by acting as an “accomplice” to HPV.WebMD.com (1)

A co-infection of HPV and herpes sharply increases the risk of cervical cancer according to several studies.

Most people associate the HPV virus with cervical cancer. However, research now shows that many women that have invasive cervical cancer are also infected with HSV-2, the genital herpes virus. (2)

herpes prevention

For example, Dr. Jennifer S. Smith and colleagues wrote in a study that “Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection was first considered as a possible causal agent for cervical cancer in the 1960s and 1970s.

Inactivated HSV-2 was shown to transform cells in vitro. After HPV DNA was detected in cervical cancer tissue, it was hypothesized that HSV-2 infections might initiate mutations and carcinogenesis in HPV-infected cervical cells … specifically, in vitro data suggest that the XhoII subfragment of the HSV-2 genome induces the malignant transformation of HPV-immortalized cervical cells and may be retained in cervical cancer tissue.” (2)

When HPV and Herpes both infect the same individual at the same time, it is called co-infection. A co-infection of HPV and herpes viruses raises the risk of cervical cancer. In fact, another study found that “women infected with both HPV and HSV-2 were two to three times more likely to get cervical cancer.” (1)

How and why is this the case?

Dr. Jennifer S. Smith noted that this could be due to “inflammatory responses induced by herpetic infections (which) may interfere with a woman’s ability to mount an effective immune response to HPV infection by suppressing a woman’s T helper cell-mediated immune response.” (2)

The bottom line?

Doctors should remember that while there are two vaccines against the HPV virus, they are not approved for those already infected with the virus. Further, “There is no cure for HSV-2, which also is spread through unprotected sexual contact and now infects an estimated one in five Americans older than age 12, according to the CDC.” (1)

Thus, not only should the public make itself aware of the risk factors involved in acquiring the HPV and HSV viruses, but it should put more pressure on the medical and scientific community to develop safer, more effective antiviral treatments against theses viruses.


(1) WebMD.com – Kirchheimer, S. “Herpes Virus Linked to Cervical Cancer Appears to Be ‘Accomplice’ With Other Virus” – Genital Herpes Health Center – Herpes Virus Linked to Cervical Cancer. Published Nov. 5, 2002

(2) Jennifer S. Smith, Rolando Herrero, Cristina Bosetti, Nubia Mun˜oz,
F. Xavier Bosch, Jose´ Eluf-Neto, Xavier Castellsague´, Chris J. L. M. Meijer, Adriaan J. C. Van den Brule, Silvia Franceschi, Rhoda Ashley “Herpes Simplex Virus-2 as a Human Papillomavirus Cofactor in the Etiology of Invasive Cervical Cancer,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 94, No. 21, November 6, 2002


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