More than one in six cancers are caused by preventable or treatable infections, according to a new global study.

Researchers found that of the 12.7 million new cancer cases around the world - 2 million were caused by virus, bacteria and parasites in 2008. The study, published in The Lancet Oncolgy journal earlier this month, found 1.5 million deaths were caused by the same things.

"Infections with certain viruses, bacteria and parasites are one of the biggest and preventable causes of cancer worldwide," study authors Dr Catherine Martel and Dr Martyn Plummer wrote.

The results show Helicobacter pylori, hepatitis B and C viruses and human papillomaviruses (HPV) caused 1.9 of those infection-related cancers, Medical Daily reported. Most cases were gastric, liver and cervical.


Cervical cancer accounted for half of infection linked cancers in women, while liver and gastric cancers made up more than 80 per cent of preventable cancers in men.

"Applications for existing public health methods for infection prevention, such as vaccination, safer injection practise or antimicrobal treatments, could have a substantial effect on future burden of cancer worldwide," the report claimed. There are vaccines to prevent hepatitis B and HPV.

Researchers drew on a number of sources, including World Health Organisation data on incidence estimates for 27 cancers in 184 countries.

Infection related cancers were more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa - where about a third of cancers were caused by infection. Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand had the lowest rates, with just four per cent of cancers attributed to these causes.

Follow Life & Style Editor Nicky Park on Twitter.