Breast Cancer as an Infectious Disease?

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Lawson JS, Glenn WK, Whitaker NJ. Breast cancer as an infectious disease. Womens Health (Lond Engl). 2010 Jan;6(1):5-8. PubMed PMID: 20088725 [free full text]

Researchers at the University of New South Wales review evidence for a role of human papillomavirus (HPV) in the etiology of at least some forms of breast cancer, complemented by their laboratory work to identify HPV sequences from breast tumors.

Identifying low viral load as a possible explanation for failure to detect HPV in previous studies of breast tumors, the authors employed repeated PCR analyses using SYBR Green for greater sensitivity, and were able to detect HPV in nearly half the tumors tested.

From the conclusion:

“When considered in the context of previously published evidence related to HPV and breast cancer, these recent findings strongly suggest a causal role for HPVs in some breast cancers. However, we must wait for the development of further evidence before this relationship can be stated definitively.

“The immediate importance of this work is that it brings with it the possibility, for the first time, that primary preventative measures for some breast cancers are likely to be immediately available. This is because the high-risk HPV types that we and many others have identified in breast tumors (principally HPV types 16 and 18) are the same types for which the new HPV vaccines are most effective. These vaccines are already available and are being used on a worldwide basis.”

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