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CAUSES OF CANCER: VIRAL AND MEDICAL FACTORS

Viral factorsThe chances of becoming infected with a “cancer virus” are very remote. Over the years, several forms of virus-induced cancers have been observed in laboratory animals and there is some indication that human beings display a similar tendency toward virally transmitted cancers. Evidence that the herpes-related viruses may be involved in the development of some forms of leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, cervical cancer, and Burkitt’s lymphoma has surfaced in recent years. The Epstein-Barr virus, associated with mononucleosis, may also contribute to cancer development. Cervical cancer has also been linked to the human papillomavirus, the virus that causes genital warts.Although research is inconclusive, many scientists believe that selected viruses may help to provide an opportunistic environment for subsequent cancer development. It is likely that a combination of immunological bombardment by viral or chemical invaders and other risk factors substantially increases the risk of cancer.
Medical factorsIn some cases, medical treatment increases a person’s risk for cancer. One famous example is the widespread use of the prescription drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) during the years 1940 to 1960 to control problems with bleeding during pregnancy and to reduce the risk of miscarriage. It was not until the 1970s that the dangers of this drug became apparent. Although DES caused few side effects in the millions of women who took it, their daughters were found to have an increased risk for cancers of the reproductive organs.Some scientists claim that the use of estrogen replacement therapy among postmenopausal women is dangerous because it increases the risks for uterine cancer. Others believe that because estrogen is critical to the prevention of osteoporosis and heart disease in aging women, its use should not be curtailed.Numerous drug regimens given to patients in the form of chemotherapy to treat one cancer may also increase the risks of the patient developing other forms of cancer.*12/277/5*

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