Written by Alex Crees
One in every six cancers worldwide is caused by an infection that is preventable or treatable, according to new estimates published in the journal Lancet Oncology. The research indicates infections are attributable for approximately 2 million new cancer cases every year.
"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. They added that “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.”
Cancers caused by infections generally have a higher mortality rate than other cancers, according to the researchers. Of the 7.5 million deaths from cancer worldwide in 2008, approximately 1.5 million were due to infections.
To measure the rates, the researchers conducted an analysis that included data on 27 cancers in 184 countries. They found 16 percent of all cancers worldwide stemmed from infections, however the rates varied by region.
“The burden of infection-related cancer is higher in less-developed countries,” Plummer told FoxNews.com. “In less-developed countries, 22.9 percent of cancers are due to infection, whereas in more-developed countries the figure is 7.4 percent.”
The worldwide rate of infection-related cancer has remained relatively stable compared to previous estimates from 1990 and 2002, according to Plummer.
The highest proportion of infection-related cancers was found in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in three cancers is caused by an infection (32.7 percent). In comparison, figures from the U.S. and Canada indicate that 4 percent of cancers in North America are due to infection.
The countries with the lowest rates of infection-related cancers are Australia and New Zealand, with estimates of 3.3 percent.