Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Environmental and Occupational Health

First Committee Member

Shawn Gerstenberger, Co-Chair

Second Committee Member

Karl Kingsley, Co-Chair

Third Committee Member

Mark Buttner

Fourth Committee Member

Michelle Chino

Fifth Committee Member

Chad Cross

Graduate Faculty Representative

Connie Mobley

Number of Pages



The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the cause of nearly all cases of cervical cancers worldwide. HPV viral DNA is found in more than 99% of cervical cancers. In addition to cervical cancer, HPV is also associated with some breast and oral cancers. White women have been showing a decline in breast cancer rates while black women are continuously showing higher rates of mortality from both breast and cervical cancer. Minority women are also more likely to receive a late diagnosis and are showing increased incidence of oral cancer, which makes study of HPV in women and minorities significant.

To date, little evidence has been provided to estimate oral HPV prevalence among healthy adults in the US. A few select international studies have evaluated HPV prevalence in healthy adults using biopsy samples and these results show HPV prevalence ranging from 0 – 15%. More recently, new international studies have begun to report less invasive saliva-based testing methods to successfully screen for oral HPV infection among healthy adults, revealing prevalence rates of approximately 20%. To date, there are no reports of saliva – based HPV screening studies of normal, healthy adults, rather than oral cancer patients, to screen for oral prevalence in the U.S.

The goal of this study was to collect saliva from the University of Nevada Las Vegas – School of Dental Medicine (UNLV – SDM) patient clinic and screen for the presence of the high risk strain, HPV 16, found in the majority of HPV-associated cervical, breast, and oral cancers. Two hundred participants were asked to provide a saliva sample for HPV screening. Demographic information such as age, gender, and race were also obtained for statistical analysis. DNA was isolated from the saliva sample in order to perform PCR to screen for HPV 16.

Analysis of the UNLV-SDM patient population revealed a higher percentage of females and minorities than in the local community, Clark County. Analysis of the demographic information from the saliva samples revealed that these samples were representative of the UNLV-SDM patient pool. Four (4) samples tested positive for HPV16 (all from women and minority participants) from more than one hundred samples screened (n=102). Although the prevalence of HPV16 in this study was relatively low (3.9%), it is comparable to other studies of oral HPV (range 0 – 21%).This study is significant because it is the first saliva-based oral HPV screening on healthy adults to be completed in the U.S. and only the third study of its kind overall.

Future studies might incorporate larger sample sizes and provide alternative sites for screening other at-risk populations.


Cancer; Human; Minorities; Minority women; Papillomavirus; Papillomaviruses; Women


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Female Urogenital Diseases and Pregnancy Complications | Public Health | Public Health Education and Promotion | Virus Diseases

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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