Significant Proportion of Cancer Caused By Infection

About 2 million new cancer cases a year are caused by infectious agents – viruses, bacteria, and parasites – according to a new analysis. Researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, reviewed data for 27 different types of cancer in 184 countries. They found that about 16% of all cancer cases worldwide are related to infection, most of it in developing countries. According to the study, 80% of infection-related cancer occurs in less developed regions.

The study was published online May 9, 1012 in The Lancet Oncology.

In many cases, infection-related cancer is preventable. Two prevalent cancer-causing viruses are human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis-B virus (HBV). In an Expert Voices blog, William C. Phelps, PhD, American Cancer Society director of preclinical and translational cancer research, writes, “There is probably no easier or more effective form of cancer prevention than vaccination against HBV to prevent liver cancer or HPV to prevent cervical cancer.”

Cervical cancer accounted for about half of the infection-related cancer in women with liver and gastric cancer accounting for 80% of infection-related cancers in men. The authors say their findings emphasize the need for safer and more widespread vaccination programs and other infection prevention programs.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
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Global burden of cancers attributable to infections in 2008: a review and synthetic analysis. Published online May 9, 1012 in The Lancet Oncology. First author: Catherine de Martel, MD, International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France.

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