Many cancers caused by infections

Cancer - popularly understood as a result of mutations or mistakes within the genetic code in cells - is also caused by infections from viruses, bacteria and parasites.

"I believe that, conservatively, 15 to 20 percent of all cancer is caused by infections, however, the number could be larger -- maybe double," says Dr. Andrew J. Dannenberg, director of the Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Henry R. Erle, M.D.–Roberts Family Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. "Unfortunately, the public, as well as many health-care workers, are unaware of the significance of chronic infection as a potentially preventable cause of cancer."

During a speech at the American Association for Cancer Research's (AACR) Sixth Annual International Conference Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, on December 5, 6:00 p.m. EST, at the Philadelphia Marriot Downtown, Dr. Dannenberg, who is also the meeting's program committee chairperson, will highlight the link between chronic infection, inflammation and cancer as an opportunity to reduce the global cancer burden. He will review research milestones that have provided the basis for vaccine development and anti-infectives to combat cancer. Some of the topics to be discussed include:

  • Liver cancer, caused by chronic hepatitis B and C.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV), linked to cervical, throat and oral cancer (oropharyngeal carcinoma).
  • A form of gastric cancer, called adenocarcinoma, and a form of lymphoma, called MALT lymphoma, that have been linked to Helicobacter pylori bacteria.
  • Bladder cancer, caused by chronic infection with Schistosome parasites.
  • How inflammation caused by infections may lead to a variety of cancers.

Of Special Interest:

Dr. Dannenberg believes that recent evidence linking HPV to throat and oral cancer -- not only to cervical cancer -- suggests that adolescent boys in addition to girls may benefit from being vaccinated against HPV.

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