Researchers around the world are finding remarkable connections between common viral infections and the later onset of complex and life-threatening diseases. Recent stories have found viral links to prostate cancer
, to Parkinson's disease
, to skin cancer
, to mouth cancer
, and to autism and schizophrenia
Some forms of breast cancer can now be added to this list. Australian scientists working out of the University of South Wales announced an important link
between the very common HPV virus and a variety of breast cancers. Their findings suggest that an HPV vaccine could prevent these cancers from presenting themselves years later.
The research suggests that tens of thousands of lives could be saved every year by administering the HPV vaccine to young females.
The HPV virus is the most commonly distributed sexually transmitted disease, and it is well known to have a direct causal relationship with 90 to 95 percent of all cervical cancers. It has also been linked to mouth cancers.
The study linking the HPV virus to these breast cancers was published in the British Journal of Cancer
and was conducted using genetic probes of cancerous breast cells. The scientists were able to confirm the presence of HPV nuclei across a variety of tissues sampled.
"The finding that high risk HPV is present in a significant number of breast cancers indicates they may have a causal role in many breast cancers," UNSW researcher, Dr Noel Whitaker, a co-author of the new report told Science Daily
. "Confirming a cancer-causing role for HPV in some breast cancers establishes the possibility of preventing some breast cancers by vaccination against HPV."
Worldwide, 1.1 million women were newly diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 - and 500,000 women lost their lives to the disease in the same year.