About one in six cases of cancer is caused by a preventable or treatable infection, according to a review published online Wednesday in the British medical journal, the Lancet Oncology.
Researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France looked at the incidence of 27 different cancers in 184 countries.
Four infectious agents -- human papillomavirus (HPV), Helicobacter pylori, and hepatitis B and C viruses -- are responsible for about two million (16%) of the 12.7 million new cancer cases diagnosed globally each year, they found.
Cervical cancer, which is thought to be caused by HPV, accounted for about half of infection-related cancer in women. In men, gastric cancers and liver cancer -- linked to hepatitis B -- accounted for more than 80% of cases.
Nearly a third of infection-attributable cancer occur in people younger than 50 years.
Overall, the incidence of cancers caused by infection is three times higher in developing countries.
The researchers said applying existing public health methods for preventing infection -- such as vaccination, safer-injection practice or antimicrobial treatments -- could substantially reduce the incidence of cancer in the future.
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