The Role of Age and Merkel Cell Polyomavirus in Oral Cavity Cancers

Melina Windon, Carole Fakhry, Lisa Rooper, Patrick Ha, David Schoppy, Brett Miles, Wayne Koch, Peter Vosler, David Eisele, Gypsyamber D’Souza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The incidence of oral tongue cancer, the majority subsite of oral cavity cancer, is rising among young people with less exposure to tobacco and alcohol. Viral causes have been proposed, including Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV). We evaluated patient and tumor characteristics among 126 incident oral cavity cancers (OCCs). Consistent with generational norms, younger patients had less exposure to tobacco and a greater number of oral sexual partners than older OCCs. In addition, younger patients were more likely to present at an earlier stage and with cancer arising from the oral tongue (each P <.05). A subset of 44 cases was centrally tested for MCPyV large T antigen expression by immunohistochemistry. In the presence of controls, none of the tumors expressed MCPyV. These findings exclude consideration of MCPyV as an etiologic factor in OCC and may generate hypotheses for future examinations of the factors underlying the rise in oral tongue cancers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1194-1197
Number of pages4
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation 2020.


  • Merkel cell
  • head and neck cancer
  • oral tongue cancer
  • polyomavirus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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