Contagious Cancer

12 08 2006

For those of you still rattled by the foiled terrorist attack in London – here’s something else to be ridiculously frightened by:

Scientists in England have gathered definitive evidence that a kind of cancer in dogs is contagious — a peculiar exception to the age-old medical wisdom that you can’t “catch” cancer.

Link to Washington Post.




3 responses

12 08 2006
4 09 2006

Just wanted to reduce ignorance a little bit.

It has been well known in the medical community that some cancers are indeed contagious. The most well known of course is cervical cancer. It is caused by certain serotypes of HPV (human papilloma virus). Now, not all cervical cancer is caused by it but the vast majority (i.e. something on the order of over 80%) is caused by HPV. Same thing for anal cancer (not rectal, since that is the last part of the large intestine prior to the anus, thus classified as colon cancer).

One might argue that cervical cancer is a type of STD (sexually transmitted disease). The relationship between sexual activity and cervical cancer was noted a long time ago by looking at rates of cervical cancer compared to numbers of sexual partners. The pap smear was a test designed to pick up early cervical cancer because it is highly curable if caught early. Generally it is recommended that women get yearly pap smears. However, if a woman is in a mutually monogamous relationship then the recommendation on frequency can be as low as every 10 years (at least in Great Britain, that recommendation has not been adopted by ACOG).

One of the most major advances recently is a vaccine,now available, to prevent cervical cancer. Women should check with their gynecologists or primary care doctor.

Another example is African endemic Burkitt’s lymphoma which is in part caused by EBV (epstein-barr virus). I say, in part, because there are also other factors involved since many people in the U.S. have EBV infections (think mono) and don’t get it (only about 100 cases of Burkitt’s each year in the U.S.). It is much more common in certain African countries and is mainly in children (about 100 cases/million).

Hope this was educational.

Sincerely, Matt

4 09 2006

Again, thanks for your comment! It is good to be educated about things like that.

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