A surprising number of cancers are caused by infection—the world wide rate is 1 in 6. Bacteria, viruses, and parasites, when left to fester for decades, can result in cells so damaged that cancer arises.

Although in the US risk is lower, we still see it. HPV has received quite a lot of screen time in the past decade for its connection with cervical cancer—but it can also cause anal, penile, and possible throat cancer (HPV is spread by skin to skin contact, any skin that comes into contact with the virus is at risk of contracting HPV infection, but areas involved with sex have a much higher probability from the increased contact and exposure to fluids).

Other viruses that can cause cancer include Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a common infection that can cause ulcers and stomach cancer and Hep C, a virus of the liver that can eventually lead to liver cancer.

There are a few things to take away:

1) Cancer is something you can catch—reducing the potential for exposure to Hep C and HPV is as important to preventing cancer as is exercising, eating right, and staying positive.

2) If 1 in 6 cancers are caused by a pathogen, then 1 in 6 cancers are preventable. H. Pylori is difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat, but supporting the digestive tract by eating probiotics and listening when something’s wrong (ulcers are a warning sign, for instance) can help prevent long term infection with H. Pylori, and reduce the risk of developing stomach cancer.

3) People with weakened immune systems have a bigger risk for cancer than you might think: it’s not just that someone stressed, depressed, or otherwise immunocompromised might have an immune system that misses mutagenic (pre-cancerous) cells, but that their increased susceptibility to pathogens and long term infections is also an increased risk of cancer.

There are lots of ways to prevent cancers caused by infection: vaccines, hygiene, and an immune system that’s supported by rest, exercise, good nutrition and immune system boosters. Listening to our bodies and taking preventative measures early is also very important to stopping these infections before cancer can form.

Read more about signs and symptoms of H. Pylori here.

Does the 1 in 6 statistic surprise you? Share your thoughts with us below:


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