Common virus may facilitate breast cancer development

One of eight viral herpes strains known to infect humans — Epstein-Barr virus — may increase the risk of breast cancer development in some women, according to new findings published in EBioMedicine.

EBV, which is found in more than 90 percent of the world's population, has previously been linked to other types of cancer, including Burkitt lymphoma, Hodgkin's lymphoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, gastric adenocarcinoma and leiomyosarcoma. Evidence linking EBV to breast cancer has been mounting.

For the study, researchers found that the virus binds itself to breast cell receptors, which incites an infection. The breast cell infection was found to cooperate with cancer-causing proteins. Upon further investigation, researchers detected genetic characteristics associated with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

"We think that if a young woman develops EBV during her teenage years or later, her breast epithelial cells will be exposed to the virus and can be infected," said Gerburg Wulf, MD, PhD, a physician scientist in the Hematology/Oncology Division at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "While for most individuals, there will be no long-term consequences, in some the infection may leave genetic scars and change the metabolism of these cells. While these are subtle changes, they may, decades later, facilitate breast cancer formation...the findings further make the case for an EBV vaccine that might protect children from infection and later EBV-associated malignancies."

More articles on infection control: 
Researchers find antibiotic source in patients' noses 
Replacing sick healthcare workers with healthy ones spreads disease quicker in some epidemics 
Fending off sepsis before it strikes

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