Herpes simplex-2, the virus that causes genital herpes, may work in tandem with another virus known to cause cervical cancer, making a woman even more susceptible to the disease, according to a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers from several countries reported that HSV-2 may work with human papillomavirus--already identified as the major cause of cervical cancer--to boost a woman's risk of developing cancer. The researchers looked at specimens from more than 1,200 cervical cancer patients in several countries and compared them with samples from 1,100 other women of similar ages. Blood samples also were analyzed for evidence of HSV-2, HSV-1 (which causes cold sores), and chlamydia. They found that 44% of the women with cancer also had genital herpes. Fewer than one quarter of the women without cancer carried HSV-2.
"HSV-2 infection may act in conjunction with HPV infection to increase the risk of invasive cervical carcinoma," the researchers wrote. They theorized that herpes can inflame the cervix and also cause genetic changes in cervical cells that could lead to cancer. However, the study indicated that HPV is still the major cause of cervical cancer; the researchers found HPV in more than 90% of the cancer patients.