Increased infections can indicate cancer

Increased infections can indicate cancer

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What is the relationship between infection and cancer?

Various infections can indicate later cancers. Such infections sometimes occur years before the actual cancer diagnosis. Understanding the relationship between the development of cancer and previous infections may help improve cancer diagnosis and treatment in the future.

In the current study by Kyoto University in Japan, it was found that infections were more common in affected people in the years before cancer was diagnosed. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Cancer Immunology Research".

Development of tumors after infections examined

Various studies have already indicated an increase in infections before the development of so-called non-solid tumors such as lymphomas, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and myelomas. However, little research has looked at infections prior to the development of solid tumors.

In which environment can cancer develop well?

Cancer can develop in an inflammatory environment caused by infections, immunity disorders, exposure to chemical carcinogens, or chronic or genetic diseases, ‚ÄĚsays study author Shinako Inaida of Kyoto University in a press release.

Improve cancer diagnosis and treatment

"An individual's immunity is believed to be a factor in the development of cancer, but more research is needed to understand the relationship between precancerous immunity, infection, and cancer," added the expert. Such information can help diagnose cancer early or even prevent it if necessary.

Over 50,000 people took part in the study

The current study attempted to determine the annual infection rate in adults in Japan from 2005 to 2012. People aged 30 years and older without identified immunodeficiencies participated in the study. The participants included a control group of 48,395 people and 2,354 people diagnosed with malignant cancer between July 2010 and June 2011. The annual prevalence rates for influenza, gastroenteritis, hepatitis and pneumonia infections were calculated for each of the groups.

Six years before cancer was diagnosed, infection rates were higher

The research group found that people in the cancer group had higher infection rates in the six years before they were diagnosed with cancer than people in the control group over the same period.

Certain rates of infection were extremely elevated

The greatest differences in the annual infection prevalence rates occurred in the sixth year, i.e. one year before the actual cancer diagnosis. This year, the infection prevalence rates in the case group for influenza were 18 percent higher than in the control group. The rates for gastroenteritis compared to the control group were increased by 46.1 percent, for hepatitis by 232.1 percent and for pneumonia by 135.9 percent, the researchers report.

The likelihood of infection continued to increase

For individuals in the group of people with cancer, age-related infection rates continued to increase each year. During the first year, people in the case group were 16 percent more likely to be infected than the control group, compared to a 55 percent higher risk in the sixth year.

The probability of a hepatitis infection increased massively

In the sixth year, the highest age-matched probability ratio for hepatitis infection was observed, with the probability of hepatitis infection being 238 percent higher in the case group than in the control group, reports the research group.

Certain infections were more associated with specific cancers

The researchers also found that certain infections appeared to be more associated with certain types of cancer. The likelihood of flu infection was highest shortly before cancer detection in people who contracted male germ cell cancer.

Infection of an organ does not increase the risk of cancer for that organ

Pneumonia was most likely to develop in people who later developed gastric cancer. People who developed hematological, blood, bone, or bone marrow cancer had the highest risk of hepatitis infection. "Interestingly, we found that an infection that affects a particular organ does not necessarily correlate with an increased risk of cancer in the same organ," said study author Inaida.

Were there any restrictions in the current investigation?

One limitation of the study was the lack of information about environmental pollution, lifestyles or basic genetic and medical conditions, which in addition to the development of cancer could also have contributed to an increased infection. Another limitation was that information about infections was based solely on the diagnoses recorded in the database. The small size of the sample for rare cancers was another limitation in the current study. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Shinako Inaida, Shigeo Matsuno: Previous Infection Positively Correlates to the Tumor Incidence Rate of Patients with Cancer, in Cancer Immunology Research (Published Apr 17, 2020), Cancer Immunology Research
  • Increased Rate of Infections May Indicate a Future Cancer Diagnosis, American Association for Cancer Research (Published April 17, 2020), American Association for Cancer Research

Video: Cancer Patient Journey: Preventing Infections. Cincinnati Childrens (September 2022).


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