Doctors study links between viruses and cancer

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 10:48 AM CDT
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The Coronavirus pandemic has shed new light on the importance of vaccines. It’s not just viruses they can prevent, but cancer as well.

“There are hundreds of thousands of viruses in the pipeline,” said Emeritus Senior Research Scientist Dr. Joseph Mazza.

Doctors are now learning more about the link between many of those viruses and cancer.

“About 20% of the cancers in the United States are associated with and perhaps caused by infectious disease agents,” said Dr. Mazza. “When I’m talking about infectious disease agents, I’m talking about bacteria, parasites and viruses.”

HPV is one of those viruses.

“Human Papilloma Virus is the most common cause of cervical cancer in women in the world,” said Dr. Mazza.

Health experts say the best way to attack that risk is with preventative care.

“Now, because we’ve appreciated how ubiquitous this virus is in our environment, we are advocating that we should be vaccinating people from as young as 9 years of age up to age 26,” said Dr. Mazza.

That vaccine could change the course of history for this particular cancer.

“If we can strongly advocate giving the vaccine to people as young as 9 years of age and following the protocol in getting two doses, we could eliminate cervical cancer,” said Dr. Mazza

So why the sudden increase in cancers being related to viruses?

“The technology, and our ability to find these agents has really progressed very nicely,” said Dr. Mazza. “But we’re only sampling a grain of what’s out there and what’s threatening us as a host.”

As viruses mutate and our environment changes, health experts will be working around the clock to create new versions of vaccines, hoping modern medicine can keep up with the risk.