Federal Health Officials ID 7 New Carcinogens Including Virus That Causes 'Mono' and HIV

HHS officials added them to known carcinogen list in new report.

ByABC News
November 3, 2016, 2:57 PM
Scanning electron micrograph of HIV particles infecting a human T cell.
Scanning electron micrograph of HIV particles infecting a human T cell.
Stocktrek Images/Getty Images

— -- Federal health officials have identified seven new substances, including five viruses, as known carcinogens in a new report.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regularly releases a list of carcinogens in an effort to help reduce cancer cases. Currently, the HHS has listed 248 known carcinogens that run the gamut from X-rays to alcohol consumption. Today it added five viruses to the list, including HIV and the Epstein-Barr virus, which can cause mononucleosis. Two other substances -- an industrial solvent called trichlorethylene (TCE) and the element cobalt, often used in rechargeable batteries and military equipment -- also made the list.

"Given that approximately 12 percent of human cancers worldwide may be attributed to viruses, and there are no vaccines currently available for these five viruses, prevention strategies to reduce the infections that can lead to cancer are even more critical," Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and National Toxicology Program (NTP), said in a statement today. "The listings in this report, particularly the viruses, bring attention to the important role that prevention can play in reducing the world's cancer burden. There are also things people can do to reduce their exposure to cobalt and TCE."

The five viruses were listed in the report after medical studies found they were associated with an increased risk of developing certain cancers:

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus): The virus, which weakens the immune system, increases the risk of several cancers, including non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphomas, anogenital cancers, Kaposi sarcoma and liver cancer.

Human T-cell lymphotropic virus type 1: The virus is a kind of retrovirus that can cause adult T-cell leukemia-lymphoma, a rare cancer.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV): This common virus is a form of the herpes virus, and about 90 percent of adults are infected at some point in their lives. While most people remain healthy, this virus can cause mononucleosis, commonly referred to as "mono." In rare cases, the Epstein-Barr virus can cause certain types of cancer, including four types of lymphoma.

Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV): This virus is a herpes virus that has been linked to several cancers, including Kaposi sarcoma and two rare kinds of lymphoma.

Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV): This is a common virus that generally lives on the skin and rarely causes cancer or even symptoms. It can cause Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare kind of skin cancer where a nerve in the skin develops cancer.

The full report can be found here.