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Lancet Oncol. 2008 Aug;9(8):786-95. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(08)70198-0.

Part II: Cancer in Indigenous Africans--causes and control.

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Research Division, The Cancer Council New South Wales, Australia.


Africa has contributed substantial knowledge to the understanding of certain risk factors for cancer, such as the role of several infectious agents (eg, viruses, bacteria, and parasites), aflatoxins, and certain lifestyle factors. Although the relative importance of many lifestyle factors is becoming better understood in developed countries, more work is needed to understand the importance of these factors in different African settings. In view of the substantial genetic diversity in Africa, it would be prudent not to generalize too widely from one place to the next. We argue that risks for several exposures related to certain cancers differ from the patterns seen in developed countries. In this paper, we review the current knowledge of causes of some of the leading cancers in Africa, namely cancers of the cervix, breast, liver, prostate, stomach, bladder, and oesophagus, Kaposi's sarcoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and tobacco-related cancers. There are no comprehensive cancer-control programmes in Africa and provision of radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and palliation is inadequate. Certain cost-effective interventions, such as tobacco control, provision of antiretroviral therapy, and malarial and bilharzial control, can cause substantial decreases in the burden of some of these cancers. Vaccinations against hepatitis B and oncogenic human papilloma viruses can make the biggest difference, but very few countries in Africa can afford these vaccines without substantial subsidization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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