Viruses including Epstein–Barr virus (EBV), a human equivalent of murine mammary tumour virus (MMTV) and human papillomavirus (HPV) have been implicated in the aetiology of human breast cancer. We report the presence of HPV DNA sequences in areolar tissue and tumour tissue samples from female patients with breast carcinoma. The presence of virus in the areolar–nipple complex suggests to us a potential pathogenic mechanism.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was undertaken to amplify HPV types in areolar and tumour tissue from breast cancer cases. In situ hybridisation supported the PCR findings and localised the virus in nipple, areolar and tumour tissue.
Papillomavirus DNA was present in 25 of 29 samples of breast carcinoma and in 20 of 29 samples from the corresponding mamilla. The most prevalent type in both carcinomas and nipples was HPV 11, followed by HPV 6. Other types detected were HPV 16, 23, 27 and 57 (nipples and carcinomas), HPV 20, 21, 32, 37, 38, 66 and GA3-1 (nipples only) and HPV 3, 15, 24, 87 and DL473 (carcinomas only). Multiple types were demonstrated in seven carcinomas and ten nipple samples.
The data demonstrate the occurrence of HPV in nipple and areolar tissues in patients with breast carcinoma. The authors postulate a retrograde ductular pattern of viral spread that may have pathogenic significance.