It’s heartening to know that there are dedicated researchers out there exploring new ways to fight cancer. According to the latest reports, they’re looking into some innovative methods that involve targeting fungal infections.
It seems that there’s strong evidence linking these types of infections to cancer development, particularly in people with weakened immune systems like those living with AIDS. A recent study published in the Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin (APB) sheds more light on this important topic.
There’s a connection between cancer and fungal infections
It is alarming to know that in 2018, 18.1 million people around the world were diagnosed with cancer, and 9.5 million lost their battle against it. Unfortunately, experts predict that these numbers will increase to 29.5 million new cases and 16.4 million deaths by 2040.
There are ongoing efforts to reduce these rates, with some scientists studying the various risk factors that contribute to the development of cancer.
Research shows that cancer has many risk factors such as microbial infection, obesity, diet, sex and nationality, lifestyle, smoking, alcohol consumption, and exposure to environmental pollutants. In fact, a study published in Microbial Pathogenesis in 2020 suggests that microbial infections are responsible for around 20 percent of all cancers, and some of these infections may even be caused by fungi.
The APB study states that the most common fungi species involved in cancer include the following:
How can fungus increase cancer risks?
According to the APB study, fungal infections can produce chemicals that have been linked to cancer. These chemicals include acetaldehyde, which can damage DNA and hinder the body’s ability to repair that damage. The risk of cancer increases with greater exposure to acetaldehyde.
Mycotoxins are another type of chemical produced by fungi that can have adverse health effects, including changes to chromosomes and an increased risk of cancer.
Additionally, nitrosamines are chemicals that can damage DNA and lead to tumor growth, while proinflammatory cytokines indicate inflammation and can contribute to cancer development in various ways.
Fungal infections can affect anyone, but people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible. Certain factors, such as weakened immunity, can make it harder for the body to fight off a fungal infection.
Individuals with a CD4 count of less than 200, particularly those with HIV or AIDS, are more susceptible to fungal infections. Additionally, immunosuppressive drugs taken to prevent organ rejection after stem cells or organ transplants can make it harder to fight off fungal infections.
In hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, the use of medical devices like ventilators and catheters can create an opportunity for fungi to enter the body. Candida auris is a common infection that spreads easily among people in these healthcare settings.
It can be transmitted through contact with contaminated equipment, surfaces, or infected individuals.
As individuals age, their immune system can weaken, making it more challenging to fight off fungal infections. This can be particularly true for older adults who take oral or inhaled corticosteroids to manage conditions such as asthma, allergies, arthritis, and autoimmune diseases.
The immune response can also be weakened by the use of anti-inflammatory drugs like TNF inhibitors, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, which are commonly used to treat autoimmune diseases.