In the lead up to World Cancer Day on February 4, the theme of a campaign launched by the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) was “Cancer can be prevented too.” The campaign was backed by a new scientific report, “Protection Against Cancer-Causing Infections,” which focuses on the nine infections that can lead to cancer.
“Of the 12 million people who are diagnosed with cancer each year, around 20% of cases can be attributed to viral and bacterial infections that either directly cause or increase the risk of cancer,” said Prof. David Hill, UICC President. “For this reason the UICC, with over 300 member organizations in more than 100 countries, has focused this year’s World Cancer Day campaign on increasing awareness of the contribution of infections to the global cancer burden.”
Despite the existence of preventive measures (the HPV vaccine, which protects against the human papillomavirus that can lead to cervical cancer, and the vaccine against hepatitis B virus, which can lead to liver cancer), there is a clear disparity between low- and high-income countries in incidence rates of cancer related to infections (26% vs 8%), as well as access to prevention programs, treatment, and care. For example, 80% of global cervical cancer deaths are in developing countries, and even where affordable technology is available, enormous challenges remain due to limitations in disease awareness and public health infrastructures.