Viruses and bacteria

It’s important to remember that cancer isn’t infectious and can’t be caught from someone. However, there are a number of different viruses that are thought to influence the development of cancer.

These may cause genetic changes to the cells making them more likely to become cancerous.

One of the most common viruses that can affect cancer risk is HPV (human papilloma virus). This increases the risk of developing cancer of the cervix, head and neck cancers and cancers of the anal or genital area. We have more information about HPV and HPV vaccines, which you may find helpful.

Other viruses that are linked to the development of cancer are:

  • Epstein-Barr virus, which is linked to some types of lymphoma
  • Hepatitis B and C viruses that are linked to primary liver cancer
  • T-cell leukaemia virus that is linked to T-cell leukaemia in adults.

There is also a bacterial infection known as H-pylori, which is linked to a rare type of stomach cancer.

Remember, not everyone who is infected with one of these viruses or bacteria will go on to develop cancer.

Back to Potential causes of cancer

Low immunity

People with low immunity are at a higher risk of developing some types of cancer.

Human papilloma virus (HPV)

Human papilloma virus (or HPV) is a common infection. Some types of HPV can increase the risk of developing cancer.

HPV vaccines

There are two vaccines currently available across the UK to prevent human papilloma virus (HPV).