Prof. Hausen advocates large-scale HPV vaccination and hopes that WHO will take up initiative in this regard

Nobel laureate Harald zur Hausen on Tuesday attributed the growth in incidence of cancers to changes in lifestyle and increase in life expectancy.

Talking to reporters here, Prof. Hausen said that in many parts of Western world, there was an increase of one to five years in life span for every decade. However, this was not the only reason and there were environmental aspects which contribute to at least some cancers like that of the breast, pancreas and brain. Though there was increase in cancer incidence, there was a decrease in mortality due to newer treatment modalities.

While observing that HPV vaccine to prevent infections linked to cervical cancer was highly effective, he however, said that for statistically significant data that the cancer was being prevented by vaccination, there was a need to wait for another 10 years. It might take several years to gain control over cancer for its cure. Prof. Hausen advocated large scale HPV vaccination of girls and boys and expressed the hope that World Health Organisation (WHO) would take an initiative in this regard.

He said he was currently working on bovine virus that was suspected of causing colon cancer. The incidence of this cancer was high in beef consuming countries. Director of Cellular and Molecular Biology, Ch. Mohan Rao said cancer of cervix was one of the most common cancers in developing world. It was estimated that about six lakh new cases of cervical cancer were occurring every year and the annual mortality due to the disease was about three lakh cases. Later Prof. Hausen delivered the second in the series of Distinguished Lectures at CCMB on “Cancers with epidemiological evidence for a linkage to infections”.

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