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Treatable infections cause one in six cases of cancer

According to new research, two million cases of cancer which occur around the world every year could be prevented. It is thought one in six new cases o...

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|May 9|magazine8 min read

According to new research, two million cases of cancer which occur around the world every year could be prevented.

It is thought one in six new cases of the disease are caused by infections that are preventable and treatable.

An estimated 80 percent of these occur in the developing world, and it is thought four main infections are to blame.

The human papillomaviruses (HPV), hepatitis B and C and Helicobater pylori were responsible for causing 1.9 million incidences of stomach, liver and cervical cancer.

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The team behind the study, from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, are now calling for cancer to be recognised as a communicable disease.

They also say efforts to prevent the four main infections must be stepped up.

As part of the study, the researchers reviewed incidence data of 27 different strains of cancer from 184 countries across the world.

Infection-related cancers were much more common in countries in the developing world than they were in first-world countries.

For example, in east Asia 22.9 percent of cancers were caused by such infections, bacteria and parasites, compared to just 7.4 percent in the UK.

Meanwhile in countries in the sub-Saharan African region, 32.7 percent of new cases of cancer are infection-related, but in Australia and New Zealand the figure stands at 3.3 percent.

Commenting on the findings, Catherine de Martel and Martyn Plummer, the lead authors of the study, said: “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.”

Jessica Harris, Cancer Research UK’s health information manager also added: “It's important that authorities worldwide make every effort to reduce the number of infection-related cancers, especially when many of these infections can be prevented."

“Vaccination against HPV, which causes cervical cancer, should go a long way towards reducing rates of this disease in the UK.

“But it's important that uptake of the vaccination remains high.

“At a global level, if the vaccine were available in more countries, many thousands more cases could be prevented.”

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