After examining data from across the world, researchers estimated the incidence of cancers caused by viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections, such as the human papilloma virus (HPV) and hepatitis.
Some of the most striking findings were that:
- 1.5 million of the 7.5 million global cancer deaths in 2008 were caused by potentially preventable or treatable infections.
- The number of cancer deaths caused by infections increased by 500,000 deaths from 1990 to 2008.
- 23% of cancer cases in developing countries in 2008 were related to infections, compared to just 7% in developed countries.
- About 4% of 2008 cancers in North America were caused by infections.
According to the study, 1.9 million of the 2 million infection-related cancer cases involved:
- HPV, which can cause cervical, anal, and penile cancers.
- Helicobacter pylori which can cause stomach cancers.
- Hepatitis B which can cause liver cancer.
- Hepatitis C which can cause liver cancer.
In an accompanying editorial, Harvard School of Public Health’s Goodarz Danaei suggested that the cancer incidence rate would fall if more patients received vaccinations for HPV and hepatitis B, which are available at relatively low cost.