Oncology review reveals how many cancers are caused by infections

An Oncology review by The Lancet looked at the incidence rates for 27 cancers in a total of 184 countries. The study found that one in six cancers are caused by infections that are mostly either treatable or preventable. They found that there are four main infections responsible and these are hepatitis B and C, helicobacter pylori and human papillomaviruses.

They are responsible for 1.9million cases of liver, gut and cervical cancer. The highest proportion of these cases is in the developing world with cancers related to infection being roughly 3 times higher in these countries. Also, almost a third of the cases affect people less than 50 years old.

The research team was led by Drs. Catherine de Martel and Martyn Plummer of the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France. They said that it’s time to realize that cancer is a communicable disease and that preventing infection would have a substantial effect on the rates of cancer diagnosed worldwide.

They also said that certain viral infections, bacteria and parasites can be prevented with properly applied vaccination programmes, safer injection practices and antimicrobial treatments. This in itself would have a great effect on the spread of infections and therefore incidence of cancer. The H. pylori infection, which is linked to stomach cancer, can be cleared up with a simple course of antibiotics for example.

Cervical cancer accounted for roughly 50% of the cases related to infection in women and liver and gastric cancers for more than 80% of the cases in men. If the vaccines that are available to help prevent HPV, linked to cervical cancer, and hepatitis B, linked to liver cancer, were applied in more countries then many thousands of cases could possibly be prevented.