Vietnamese doctor says infectious diseases a factor in some major cancers

HO CHI MINH CITY (Bernama) – Vietnam’s national cancer control strategy should address the serious problem of infectious agents, which cause more than 20 per cent of malignancies in the world, said Prof Nguyen Chan Hung, Chairman of the Vietnam Cancer Society, the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

Speaking at a recent conference, Hung said the rate of infectious diseases in developing countries was four times higher than that in developed countries.

He claimed several infectious agents were linked to some of the most common cancers.

Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori), which causes chronic inflammation in stomach and duodenum, is a common cause of ulcers, while hepatitis viruses B and C and the human papillomavirus (HPV) can also cause cancer.

H.pylori infections and viral hepatitis are agents for gastric and liver cancers, while HPV infections can cause not only cervical cancer but also anal, oropharyngeal, vulval and penile cancers.

“Appropriate policies for prevention of infectious diseases would help open doors for cancer control. We have a good opportunity for cancer control by eliminating some infectious agents,” Hung said.

Vietnam has vaccines against hepatitis B virus and HPV, which help prevent infection, he said.

Figures from the Thai Nguyen Oncology Centre showed that the number of patients with infectious diseases at the centre had doubled between 2012 and 2016. The role of molecular biology was also highlighted as it was a potent tool to make new medicines for cancer. Health experts from oncology hospitals and centres said they had performed invasive surgeries that had resulted in a high level of preservation of healthy cells in patients with cancer.

Advanced radiotherapy techniques used to improve accuracy in treatment did not affect healthy cells around the cancerous cells. According to Professor Hung, leading causes of cancer today are smoking and cigarette’s smoke, followed by unhealthy lifestyles, eating and the infection (viruses, bacteria, parasites).

“There are solutions for these causes, there are vaccines, but most importantly, humans must know to avoid the causes in the first place,” he said.

According to Hung, many people think hepatitis B or C is normal and not much attention is needed, but this negligence ultimately results in cancer.

Cigarette smoke, aside from the well-known lung cancer, also contains 75 powerful carcinogens that can cause 15 cancers. He also advised against consumption of fatty meat, salty food or oily dishes, and recommended higher intake of vegetables and fruit.

Sharing the same viewpoint, Professor Nguyen Tan Binh, Director of the HCM City’s Department of Health, said that 40 per cent of the causes of cancer could be prevented if advocacy and awareness campaigns were effective.