Evidence of Epstein-Barr virus association with head and neck cancers: A review

Soorebettu R. Prabhu, David F. Wilson

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43 Citations (Scopus)
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Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is ubiquitous: over 90% of the adult population is infected with this virus. EBV is capable of infecting both B lymphocytes and epithelial cells throughout the body including the head and neck region. Transmission occurs mainly by exchange of saliva. The infection is asymptomatic or mild in children but, in adolescents and young adults, it causes infectious mononucleosis, a self-limiting disease characterized by lethargy, sore throat, fever and lymphadenopathy. Once established, the virus often remains latent and people become lifelong carriers without experiencing disease. However, in some people, the latent virus is capable of causing malignant tumours, such as nasopharyngeal carcinoma and various B-and T-cell lymphomas, at sites including the head, neck and oropharyngeal region. As lymphoma is the second-most common malignant disease of the head, neck and oral region after squamous cell carcinoma, oral health care workers including dentists and specialists have a responsibility to carry out a thorough clinical examination of this anatomical region with a view to identifying and diagnosing lesions that may represent lymphomas. Early detection allows early treatment resulting in better prognosis. The focus of this review is on the morphology, transmission and carcinogenic properties of EBV and clinical and diagnostic aspects of a range of EBV-associated malignancies occurring in the head, neck and oral region.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberg2
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Canadian Dental Association
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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