Background: Besides an established role for certain human papillomavirus (HPV) genotypes in the etiology of cervical cancer, little is known about the influence of multiple-type HPV infections on cervical lesion risk. We studied the association between multiple HPV types and cervical lesions among 2,462 Brazilian women participating in the Ludwig-McGill study group investigation of the natural history of HPVs and cervical neoplasia. Methods: Cervical specimens were typed by a PCR protocol. The cohort's repeated-measurement design permitted the assessment of the relation between the cumulative and concurrent number of HPV types and any-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (SIL) and high-grade SIL (HSIL). Result: At individual visits, 1.9% to 3.2% of the women were infected with multiple HPVs. Cumulatively during the first year and the first 4 years of follow-up, 12.3% and 22.3% were infected with multiple types, respectively. HSIL risk markedly increased with the number of types [odds ratio (OR), 41.5; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 5.3-323.2 for single-type infections; OR, 91.7; 95% CI, 11.6-728.1 for two to three types; and OR, 424.0; 95% CI, 31.8-5651.8 for four to six types, relative to women consistently HPV-negative during the first year of follow-up]. The excess risks for multiple-type infections remained after exclusion of women infected with HPV-16, with high-risk HPV types, or persistent infections, particularly for any-grade SIL. Coinfections involving HPV-16 and HPV-58 seemed particularly prone to increase risk. Conclusion: Infections with multiple HPV types seem to act synergistically in cervical carcinogenesis. These findings have implications for the management of cervical lesions and prediction of the outcome of HPV infections.
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