Soluble interleukin 2 receptor levels and cervical neoplasia: Results from a population-based case-control study in Costa Rica

Anita Ung, Tim R. Kramer, Mark Schiffman, Rolando Herrero, M. Concepcion Bratti, Robert D. Burk, Christine A. Swanson, Mark E. Sherman, Martha L. Hutchinson, Mario Alfaro, Jorge Morales, Ileana Balmaceda, Allan Hildesheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Progression from infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) to cervical cancer in some women is thought to involve a permissive host environment, one in which immune response is mobilized in an inappropriate manner. In a previous study (A. Hildesheim et al., Cancer Epidemiol. Biomark. Prev., 6: 807-813, 1997), increasing levels of soluble interleukin 2 receptor (sIL- 2R), a known proxy for general immune activation, was found to be positively associated with increasing levels of cervical neoplasia. We attempted to confirm this finding by conducting a nested case-control study of 478 women within a 10,000-woman population-based cohort in Costa Rica. We selected for the study all of the women diagnosed (at enrollment into the cohort) with: (a) low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (LSIL, n = 191); (b) high- grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (HSIL, n = 130); or (c) cancer (n = 37). Controls were 120 cytologically normal, HPV-negative women selected from a random sample of the entire cohort. A questionnaire was administered to participants to elicit information on cervical cancer risk factors. All of the women received a pelvic examination during which cervical cells were collected and used for HPV DNA testing by PCR. Blood samples were also collected. Plasma obtained from the blood samples was tested for sIL-2R levels by ELISA. Results indicated that sIL-2R levels increased with age. Among controls, we observed that 44.3% of women over the age of 50 had high levels of sIL-2R (defined as >735 units/ml) compared with 15.8% of women <30 years of age (P = 0.008). When women with cervical disease (LSIL+) were compared with controls, women in the upper quartile of the sIL-2R distribution had an age-adjusted odds ratio (OR) of 2.1 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.1-4.1]. Comparing each advancing state of neoplasia with its precursor, we found that women with LSIL had higher sIL-2R levels than controls (OR for upper quartile of sIL-2R, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.1-5.2; comparing LSIL cases with controls); women diagnosed with HSIL were similar to the LSIL group (OR for upper quartile of sIL-2R, 1.1; 95% CI, 0.5-2.4; comparing HSIL cases with LSIL cases); and those with cancer had higher sIL-2R levels than subjects with an HSIL diagnosis (OR for upper quartile of sIL-2R = 1.8; 95% CI, 0.5-7.1; comparing cancer cases with HSIL cases). These data suggest that among our study subjects, sIL-2R levels most likely rise as a response to the events of infection and cancerous invasion, but that sIL-2R levels are unlikely to be predictive of disease progression among women with LSIL.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-253
Number of pages5
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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