One in six cancer deaths around the world are caused by infections that could have been prevented or treated, according to a new study in the journal The Lancet.
Researchers from International Agency for Research on Cancer, France, found that about 1.9 million cancer deaths that occurred in 2008 were caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B and C, or Helicobacter pylori.
For men in particular, 80 percent of the infection-related cancers were liver and gastric cancers. In women, about half of the infection-related cancers were cervical cancer, according to the study.
"Application of existing public health methods for infection prevention, such as vaccination, safer injection practice, or antimicrobial treatments, could have a substantial effect on the future burden of cancer worldwide," the researchers wrote in the study.
The study was based on data from 184 countries, and included 27 cancers. On a whole, about 16 percent of all the cancers around the world in 2008 were due to infection, with the percentages by country ranging from 3.3 percent (the percentage of infection-related cancers in Australia) to 32.7 percent (the percentage of infection-related cancers in sub-Saharan Africa).
The researchers also found that cancers from infection were higher in developing countries (22.9 percent), compared with developed countries (7.4 percent).
The "estimates show the potential for preventive and therapeutic programs in less developed countries to significantly reduce the global burden of cancer and the vast disparities across regions and countries," Goodarz Danaei, of the Harvard School of Public Medicine, said in an accompanying editorial, according to a statement.
Recently, Reuters reported that cancer is growing more and more in developing countries, with predictions that by 2030, poor countries will have 70 percent of the world's cancer cases.
That Reuters article also cited a 2011 study showing that cases of and deaths from cervical cancer are increasing in Africa and other developing regions, while dropping in more developed nations.