According to new estimates published in the Lancet Oncology journal, 1 in 6 cancers is caused by an infect that is either preventable or treatable.
The article goes on to explain that approximately 2 million new cancer cases every year are attributable to infections, and that application of existing public health methods such as vaccinations and antimicrobial treatments could have a substantial effect on these statistics.
“Infections with certain viruses, bacteria, and parasites are one of the biggest and preventable causes of cancer worldwide,” lead authors Catherine de Martel and Martyn Plummer from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), France, said in a statement.
The four main infections are; human papillomaviruses (HPV), Helicobacter pylori, Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C (HCV).
The overall main cancers caused by these cancers were liver, gastric, and cervical cancers. For men, liver and gastric cancers accounted for over 80 percent of the infection related cancers while in women cervical cancer accounted for 50 percent.
These statistics are based an analysis of data on 27 cancers in 184 countries, with cancer rates varying by region. Less-developed countries showed 22.9 percent of cancers stemming from infections while more developed countries only showing 7.4 percent. The worst rate was found in Africa with 32.7 percent and the best in Australia and New Zealand with 3.3 percent.
“Progress in preventing cancer comes in three stages: understanding the mechanisms, developing effective prevention programs, and implementing these programs worldwide,” Plummer said. “In principle, the best form of prevention for infection-associated cancer is vaccination, and there has been enormous progress in this area with the development of a vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV).”
The HPV vaccines protect against 70 percent of all cervical cancers.
Cancers caused by infections typically have a higher mortality rate than other cancers.
In 2008, there 7.5 million deaths from cancer (worldwide) of which approximately 1.5 million were due to infections.
Infection related cancers can affect people of all ages (30% affect age 50 and under).