Persistent cervical infection with high-risk human papillomaviruses (hrHPVs) is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for the development of cervical cancer. Therefore, there are other co-factors facilitating the hrHPV carcinogenic process, one of which is smoking. To assess the effect of smoking on high-risk (hr) HPV DNA positivity and on the expression of HPV E7 oncoprotein, as a surrogate of persistent hrHPV infection, we used data from women recruited for the PIPAVIR project, which examined the role of E7 protein detection in cervical cancer screening. Women were tested for hrHPV DNA, using Multiplex Genotyping (MPG), and E7 protein, using a novel sandwich ELISA method, and gave information on their smoking habits. Among 1473 women, hrHPV prevalence was 19.1%. The odds ratio (OR) for hrHPV positivity of smokers compared to non-smokers was 1.785 (95% confidence intervals (CI): 1.365-2.332, p < 0.001). The ORs for E7 positivity, concerning hrHPV positive women, ranged from 0.720 to 1.360 depending on the E7 detection assay used, but this was not statistically significant. Smoking increases the probability of hrHPV infection, and smoking intensity is positively associated to this increase. Smoking is not related to an increased probability of E7 protein positivity for hrHPV positive women.
Keywords: E7 oncoprotein; HPV carcinogenesis; cervical cancer; cigarette smoking; high-risk HPV infection.