One in Six Cancers Are Caused By Treatable Infections

Illustration for article titled One in Six Cancers Are Caused By Treatable Infections

Cancer is a scourge on our society and, while scientists continue to work on treatments, many people view it as an inevitable truth. New research, however, suggests that as many as one in six cases of cancer are a result of infections—which are either preventable or treatable.

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A report to be published in Lancet Oncology suggests that, of the 7.5 million deaths from cancer worldwide in 2008, an estimated 1.5 million were due to potentially preventable or treatable infections. Catherine de Martel, one of the researchers behind the study, explains:

"Infections with certain viruses, bacteria, and parasites are one of the biggest and preventable causes of cancer worldwide…Application of existing public-health methods for infection prevention, such as vaccination, safer injection practice, or antimicrobial treatments, could have a substantial effect on future burden of cancer worldwide."

The research, carried out at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, studied international data for 27 cancers in 184 countries in order to identify the factors which contribute to the development of the diseases. The results suggest that 16 percent of all cancers are a result of infections, and of that sub-set 80 percent occur in less developed regions.

The researchers point to infections such as human papillomaviruses (HPV), Helicobacter pylori, and hepatitis B and C as the main culprits behind the onset of cancer—the four of which mainly lead to gastric, liver, and cervical cancers.

While those infections themselves aren't necessarily straightforward to prevent or treat, targeting the cause rather than tackling the fall-out is always, always preferable—and that's what we need to do. [Lancet Oncology]

Image by Frantab/SHutterstock

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DISCUSSION

MikeK

Hm. Not sure why so many people find the photo offensive. It's a sick kid, and the caption essentially is saying: suffering like this is avoidable. Perhaps they should have used a photo of a sick adult, given the particular context, but either way, I read it as arguing for why we should prevent suffering.

What I do find offensive is mindless anti-vaxers chiming in with disbelief that an infection could cause a cancer, and that vaccines prevent infections. If you really don't believe both of those things, which are extremely well documented over decades and decades of research, then kindly take your unvaccinated self and go live someplace where nobody else is vaccinated either, rather than sticking around here and benefitting from the fact that most of the people you interact with are vaccinated.