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Is prostate cancer caused by a virus?

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, September 08, 2009 8:11 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Prostate Cancer, PSA Test, Men's Health, American Cancer Society

Prostate cancer has been linked to an aggressive virus, which may help identify which men should be treated and which should not.

Virus and Aggressive Prostate Cancer


IMAGE SOURCE: Db Techno Web site

This is the first time a virus has been linked to the most aggressive form of prostate cancer.

The theory was advanced by scientists at Columbia University and the University of Utah and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Monday.

The virus, known as XMRV, is already known to cause certain cancers in animals.

Among the 200 human prostate cancer samples and 100 non-cancerous prostate–tissue samples, the men who developed prostate cancer had a more aggressive form of the disease.

The XMRV virus was present in six percent of benign prostate-tissue samples but in 27 percent of the cancerous tissue. And 44 percent of the men with tumors that were graded 9 out of 10, had evidence of XMRV, reports Ila Singh, the study’s author.

The decision whether to treat prostate cancer or opt for watchful waiting has always been debated. With the discovery of the viral link, doctors could utilize a test to identify men with the most aggressive forms of the disease, making a treatment decision easier.

Viruses are known to cause cancers in humans such as the human papillomavirus or HPV, which causes cervical cancer in women.

Doctors still don’t know if the prostate cancer virus is transmitted to women or whether it causes cancer elsewhere in the body other than the prostate.

Up to 190,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, according to the National Cancer Institute. About one million men have been needlessly treated after their blood test showed the prostate specific antigen or PSA, at an estimated cost of $40 billion, reports Bloomberg. #

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