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January 26, 2006

Can you catch cancer?

Topics: Health Issues

Can you catch cancer? The answer to this question is yes and no. Since the early 1900s there has been a significant amount of research about what triggers certain forms of cancers. What has been discovered is that a virus can be a part of the chain of links that contribute to the development of certain forms of cancer.

Over the past 100 years, with the shifts in population from one country to another, there has been either an increase in the incidence of certain forms of cancer or there has been a decrease. This is an indication that environment can also play a part in the cancer forming process.

What has been discovered is that in some forms of cancer a virus is one of the factors that has led to the formation of cancer. For example, there has been an increase in cervical cancer amongst young women who have had more than one sexual partner. The agent is HPV or human papilloma virus. Another example is that of HIV which saw an increase in the number of homosexual men getting Kaposi's sarcoma. In Africa a link was found between Burkitt's tumour and Epstein-Barr virus.

It must be remembered that people can have these viruses but not end up with cancer. There has to be another factor in the chain that links the virus to the cancer forming cell. When the viral link can be made, then there is the opportunity to research to discover a vaccine that will protect the population from the virus.

(BTW - the man who invented the vaccine against cervical cancer in Australia has just been awarded Australian of the year - this is breaking news)

The researchers have discovered that quite often there are clusters where there is a sudden outbreak. Rather than these clusters leading to the conclusion that power lines etc. are the triggers, the researchers are discovering hte link between an unknown virus as a link to the triggering of cancers such as childhood leukemia. It appears that in some babies the cell already exists at birth, but only some babies develop leukemia. Other factors, such as a possible virus appears to be a part of that link.

I should add here that the research on the links between cancer, the environment, and possible viruses as the trigger or link to the cancer taking off is also relevant in other diseases such as that of arthritis. For example, there are forms of arthritis that are triggered by certain diseases. Ross River virus for example has an arthritic component and the arthritis is short term. Some sexually transmitted diseases also have an arthritis component.

There is also a suggestion that Rheumatoid Arthritis has a virus as a trigger in the chain. This is also true of many other associated diseases. The researchers are helping us learn why, and also what can be done about trying to prevent the trigger of the disease in the first place. It really is good news.

Related: Prevention key to avoiding cancer

Posted by at January 26, 2006 1:09 AM

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