When abnormal cells in any part of the body begin to grow out of control cancer begins to develop, according to the American Cancer Society. But some of the little known causes for this abnormality are due to 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 New York-Presbyterian hospital / Weill Cornell Medical Center and Henry R. Erle, M.D.
Doctors say that many people, as well as health-care workers, are not aware that cancer from chronic infection is potentially preventable.
There is an important link between chronic infection, inflammation and cancer, and the more we know about this fact, says Dr. Dannenberg, we will have more opportunities to reduce the burden of cancer.
Important research has linked liver cancer to chronic hepatitis B and C; and found the correlation between Human Papillomavirus (HPV) to cervical, throat and oral cancer. Also, schistosome parasites are known to cause bladder cancer; and inflammation due to infections may lead to a variety of cancers.
These findings helped developed vaccines and anti-infectives to combat cancer, says Dr. Dannenberg, who suggests that a vaccine against HPV will be of great benefit to adolescents. But for this knowledge to be of any value, we need to develop an awareness of the link between chronic infections, cancer, and the possibility to prevent them, he says.