People with lung cancer are more likely to have several high-risk forms of the human papillomavirus (HPV) than people without lung cancer, according to a new study.

There are 150 different strains of HPV, but only certain kinds are associated with a high risk of cancer. Researchers found that people with who had antibodies to HPV16 were 76 percent more likely to have lung cancer than people without the HPV strain, and people with antibodies to HPV18 were 40 percent more likely to have lung cancer than people without the strain, the study said.

The findings were presented today (April 4) at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

HPV16 and HPV18 are high-risk strains that account for 70 percent of all cervical cancers, and the presence of antibodies indicates that the body had to build up an immunity to current or recent HPV infection, researchers said.

Researchers also found that smoking, which is known to cause lung cancer, didn't account for the association, said study researcher Devasena Anantharaman, a postdoctoral fellow in the Genetic Epidemiology Group at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France.

"Presence of antibodies to HPV are associated with [an] increased risk of lung cancer and this is not explained by smoking or gender," as the lung cancers weren't only found in women, Anantharaman told MyHealthNewsDaily.

Anantharaman and her colleagues conducted blood tests on 1,633 people with lung cancer and 2,729 healthy people from six central European countries to test for antibodies to HPV.

Among all the healthy people, there was a low prevalence of antibodies to HPV . But in the people with lung cancer, the antibodies to proteins that make up eight kinds of high-risk HPV were found at increased levels, the study said.

For example, researchers found that people with lung cancer were more than twice as likely to have increased levels of antibodies to two early proteins of HPV 6 and HPV 11, compared with people without lung cancer.

HPV6 and HPV11 are low-risk forms of HPV, but they still cause genital warts and respiratory papillomatosis, which is when small benign tumors grow in the respiratory tract, Anantharaman explained.

"The mechanism of HPV transmission to [the] lung is not known, but the presence of HPV in respiratory papillomatosis indicates that HPV can indeed reach the lung," she said. It's possible that HPV in the oral cavity could act as a reservoir for infection in the respiratory tract, which could somehow then spur cancer growth in the lungs, she said.

Pass it on: People with lung cancer are more likely to have high-risk forms of human papillomavirus (HPV) than people without lung cancer.

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