Infections that Cause Cancer

Infection icon for the Premier Cancer Alliance showing viruses, bacteria and parasites as a factors that increase cancer risk

Infections and Cancer Risk

Certain infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites, can cause cancer or increase the risk that cancer will form. Some viruses can disrupt signaling that normally keeps cell growth and proliferation in check. Also, some infections weaken the immune system, making the body less able to fight off other cancer-causing infections.

Some viruses, bacteria, and parasites also cause chronic inflammation, which may lead to cancer. Most of the viruses that are linked to an increased risk of cancer can be passed from one person to another through blood and/or other body fluids.

You can lower your risk of infection by getting vaccinated, not having unprotected sex, and not sharing needles.

Have your children been vaccinated for Hepatitis B (HBV)?

HBV is a major cause of liver cancer. The vaccine can prevent hepatitis B and its consequences, including liver cancer and cirrhosis. Infants should get their first dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth and will usually complete the series at 6 months of age. All children and adolescents younger than 19 years of age who have not yet gotten the vaccine should also be vaccinated. Hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for unvaccinated adults who are at risk for hepatitis B virus infection (1).

Have your children received the HPV vaccine, and should you?

The HPV vaccines that are currently available are highly effective in preventing the development of high-grade cervical lesions, which are precursors to cervical cancer. Immunization may reduce the incidence of other cancers as well, including: vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile, and oropharyngeal cancers.

The FDA now recommends the HPV vaccine for all people ages 9-45 (2). The earlier, the better. Talk to your doctor about the vaccine to protect you and your child from cancer (3).

Should you consider PrEP?

Daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%. Among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70%. Your risk of getting HIV from sex can be even lower if you combine PrEP with condoms and other prevention methods (4).

People infected with HIV have a substantially higher risk of some types of cancer compared with uninfected people of the same age (5).

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