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Background: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is common in sub-Saharan Africa, but the aetiologic contribution of human papillomavirus (HPV) is not well established.
Methods: We assessed HNSCC cases for HPV using p16 immunohistochemistry (IHC) in Malawi. Associations between p16 IHC and tumour site, behavioural risk factors, demographic characteristics, and HIV status were examined.
Results: From 2010 to 2014, 77 HNSCC cases were identified. Mean age was 52 years, 50 cases (65%) were male, and 48 (62%) were in the oropharynx (OP) or oral cavity (OC). HIV status was known for 35 patients (45%), with 5 (14%) HIV-infected. Substance use was known for 40 patients (52%), with 38% reporting any tobacco and 31% any alcohol. Forty-two cases (55%) had adequate tissue for p16 IHC, of which seven (17%) were positive, including 22% of OP/OC tumours.
Conclusions: Despite high cervical cancer burden, HPV-associated HNSCC is not very common in Malawi