Cancers attributable to infections in Canada Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Infections are estimated to cause approximately 15% of the world's cancers with large geographic variations. Yet, Canadian estimates for specific cancer-causing infections are not available. To estimate the number of infection-associated cancers diagnosed among Canadian adults in 2015, we calculated population attributable risks (PARs) and the number of attributable cases for seven carcinogenic infections and their 20 associated cancers. A systematic literature search was performed for each infection to obtain data on infection prevalence in the population and the relative risk or odds ratio associated with the cancer it causes. When mechanistic evidence suggested that detection of a given infection within cancer tissue was sufficient to attribute the cancer to the infection, prevalence among cancer cases was used to approximate the PAR. Data from 61 studies formed the basis of our analyses. The estimated number of infection-attributable cancer cases for 2015 was: 3828 for human papillomavirus (HPV), 2052 for Helicobacter pylori, 578 for Epstein-Barr virus, 509 for hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV, HCV), 100 for human herpesvirus type 8, and 30 cases for human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1. These seven infections were responsible for 3.7% of cancers diagnosed among Canadian adults in 2015; 3.5% among men and 4.0% among women. The infections with the highest number of attributable cases are largely preventable or treatable through vaccination (HBV and HPV), antibiotic therapy (H. pylori), or a combination of interventions (HCV), thereby representing an important target for reducing the infection-caused cancer burden among Canadians.


  • Walter, Stephen
  • Volesky, Karena D
  • El-Zein, Mariam
  • Franco, Eduardo L
  • Brenner, Darren R
  • Friedenreich, Christine M
  • Ruan, Yibing

publication date

  • May 2019