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Carcinogenesis. 2011 Jun;32(6):787-95. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgr054. Epub 2011 Mar 24.

The prevention of infection-associated cancers.

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  • 1Department of Health Sciences, University of Genoa, Via A. Pastore 1, I-16132 Genoa, Italy.


Collectively, chronic viral and bacterial infections and trematode infestations have been estimated to be associated with approximately one of five human cancers worldwide. The fraction attributable to each one of the chronic infections caused by hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV and HCV), human papillomaviruses (HPV) and Helicobacter pylori, is ∼5%. These infections are the most important causes of major types of cancer, including hepatocellular carcinoma, cervical cancer and stomach cancer, respectively. Taking into account the mechanisms of infection-related carcinogenesis, integrated approaches are addressed to the control of the associated infection as well as to avoidance of cancer occurrence and progression. Large-scale interventions have been implemented, such as the anti-HBV and anti-HPV routine vaccination programs. The latter has been designed with the specific goal of preventing HPV-associated cancers, which is an outstanding breakthrough in cancer prevention. Intriguingly, not only prevention but even therapy of an infectious disease and eradication of a pathogen become a crucial tool for the primary prevention of these cancers. An important role is also played by secondary prevention (e.g. Pap test and DNA testing for HPV-associated cervical cancers) and by tertiary prevention (e.g. antiangiogenesis in Kaposi's sarcoma). The present article reviews the microbial and parasitic diseases that have been associated so far with human cancers, draws an overview of their burden in cancer epidemiology, deals with applicable prevention strategies and provides examples of co-ordinated approaches to the control of cancers associated with HBV, HCV, HPV, human immunodeficiency virus and H.pylori infections.

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