While the cancer-virus link is nothing new, researchers previously believed only 20% of cancers were virus-caused. Now a new study has found that up to 40% of cancers could originate in a viral infection. The finding could lead to more preventative vaccines, like the HPV vaccine.
Researchers at Sweden's Karolinska Institute noted a connection between cytomegalovirus, from the herpes family, and medulloblastomas, the most common childhood brain tumor. Previous studies have found links between Merkel cell polyomavirus and skin cancer and XMRV and prostate cancer. But there are still questions as to how the viruses could create cancer cells; usually host cells are killed after being harnessed to replicate more of the virus.
"If we can understand how these viruses work we could prevent people from contracting them and even create therapies that use the patient's own immune system to destroy infected or cancerous cells," Birmingham University's Alan Rickinson told the Daily Mail.
Other known potential cancer-causing viruses include HPV (cervical cancer), Hepatitis B and C (liver cancer) and Epstein-Barr virus (blood and lymph cancers).