The Impact of Infectious Agents in the Causation of Human Cancer

29 May

Recently Parkin et al. (1999) made estimates of the global health burden of infection-associated cancers. Their conclusions were that approximately  15% of human neoplasms were caused by infectious agents worldwide as of 1990. This includes 10% of all lymphomas  and leukemias, 70% of all liver cancers, 42% of gastric carcinomas, and 88% of carcinomas of the cervix and vulva worldwide.  These authors estimated that 1.2 million cancer cases were attributable  to infectious agents in the year 1990. Most of this burden was related to viral infections. Almost a third, 4.3% of the 14.8%, were related to infection with Helicobacter but only a small pro- portion  to parasitic  infections.  Theoretically,  with the development  of appropriate  vaccines and other therapeutic  modalities,  most such cancers could probably be prevented within the

next decade, given the appropriate economic requirements. Just two decades ago, the percent- age of cancers  caused  by infectious  agents was considered  to be less than 1%; but as our knowledge  has increased,  infectious  agents clearly play a significant  role in the worldwide burden of cancer.

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