Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that is found on the skin and mucous membranes of humans and animals and is also a common cause of skin infections. But, can this bacteria also cause cancer?
Cancer, a complex and multifaceted group of diseases, continues to be a major global health concern.
While many factors contribute to cancer development, including genetics, lifestyle, and environmental exposures, the potential role of infectious agents has intrigued scientists for decades.
We will explore the connection between S. aureus and cancer, including their potential role in the development and progression of cancer.
What is cancer?
Cancer is a group of diseases that are distinguished by the uncontrollable growth and spread of abnormal cells in the body.
These abnormal cells have the ability to form tumors, invade nearby tissues and organs, and spread to other parts of the body via the bloodstream or lymph system.
Cancer can affect people of all ages and can occur in almost any part of the body. There are numerous types of cancer, each with its own set of signs, symptoms, and risk factors.
Breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer are all common types of cancer.
Can staphylococcus aureus cause cancer?
There is evidence suggesting a potential link between Staphylococcus aureus and certain types of cancer, the exact relationship is still being studied and understood and the evidence remains inconclusive.
For instance, there are studies that suggest that Staphylococcus aureus infection such as bacteremia may increase the risk of developing cancer.
In a study individuals with S. aureus, and bacteremia were more likely to die from cancer than the general population, and bacteremia caused by S. aureus is a common and dreaded complication in patients with cancer who are undergoing treatment.
Here’s something else they said, “The risk of primary incident cancer was 65% higher in the SAB cohort compared to the population cohort during the first year of follow-up and included 7 specific cancers.”
Another study stated that the risk of developing cancer after an S. aureus infection appears to be significantly increased within the first year compared to the control group, but beyond two years, the risk returns to levels similar to those of the general population.
The incidence rate ratio (IRR) was 1.77, which means that the individuals who had experienced SAB were 1.77 times more likely to develop cancer than the control group within the first year.
However, the study also found that the IRR of any cancer 2-5 years after SAB was actually lower in the group who had experienced SAB compared to the control group.
The IRR for this time period was 0.89, which suggests that there was no significant difference in cancer incidence between the two groups during this time period.
The study had 19,088 cases and 170,551 controls.
Therefore, while S. aureus infection is not a direct cause of cancer, it appears to be associated with an increased risk of developing the disease.
What diseases can Staphylococcus aureus cause?
- Skin infections: Examples are impetigo, folliculitis, and cellulitis
- Respiratory infections: sinusitis and pneumonia are examples.
- Bloodstream infections: This type of infection can be life-threatening, and it occurs when the bacteria enter the bloodstream. It can cause sepsis and endocarditis.
- Bone and joint infections: examples are osteomyelitis and septic arthritis.
- Urinary tract infections: infections of the urinary system such as cystitis and pyelonephritis.
- Toxic shock syndrome: occurs when bacteria produce toxins that enter the bloodstream
Who is most at risk for Staphylococcus aureus?
Certain groups of people are more likely to become infected with Staphylococcus aureus.
People with weakened immune systems, such as those suffering from HIV/AIDS or cancer, are more vulnerable to Staphylococcus aureus infections because their immune systems are less effective at fighting the bacteria.
Furthermore, people who have undergone surgery or other invasive medical procedures, such as the insertion of catheters or feeding tubes, are at a higher risk of infection because these procedures can introduce bacteria into the body.
People with skin conditions that cause skin breaks, such as eczema or psoriasis, may be more vulnerable to Staphylococcus aureus infections.
Finally, people who live in crowded or unsanitary environments, such as nursing homes or correctional facilities, may be more likely to contract an infection due to the bacteria’s close proximity and potential spread.
Individuals in these higher-risk groups must practice good hygiene, and healthcare organizations must implement effective infection control measures to help prevent the spread of Staphylococcus aureus infections.
What is the danger of Staphylococcus aureus?
Staphylococcus aureus can cause minor skin infections like boils, impetigo, and cellulitis. They are generally treated with antibiotics and are not dangerous.
But, if the infection spreads to the blood or lungs or infects the heart valves, it can be life-threatening and needs urgent medical attention.
Moreover, some strains of Staphylococcus aureus are resistant to antibiotics which makes it harder to treat.
Can Staphylococcus aureus be cured permanently?
Staphylococcus aureus infections are typically responsive to antibiotics and people usually recover fully with no long-term effects.
However, if it is an antibiotic-resistant strain of the bacterium, treating the infection can be challenging and it may recur.
Additionally, even after successful treatment with antibiotics, the bacterium may continue to persist on the person’s skin or in their nose, causing reinfection or potentially spreading to others.
Therefore, it is important to maintain good hygiene, take appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of infection and seek medical attention if there are signs of infection. People with recurring infections may also require ongoing treatment and monitoring to prevent further infections.
Preventing Staphylococcus Aureus Infections
Whether or not Staphylococcus aureus is definitively linked to cancer, preventing Staphylococcus aureus infections is essential for maintaining overall health. Strategies for preventing Staphylococcus aureus infections include:
- Good Hygiene: Practicing proper handwashing and maintaining personal hygiene can reduce the risk of Staphylococcus aureus skin infections.
- Infection Control: In healthcare settings, rigorous infection control measures, such as hand hygiene, can help prevent the spread of Staphylococcus aureus infections.
- Vaccination: While no vaccine specifically targets Staphylococcus aureus infections, vaccines against certain conditions, such as influenza and pneumonia, can reduce the risk of secondary Staphylococcus aureus infections.
It is important you speak with a healthcare professional if you suspect a Staphylococcus aureus infection.
The potential link between Staphylococcus aureus and cancer is a subject of ongoing research and scientific exploration.
While some studies have suggested associations between Staphylococcus aureus and specific cancer types, the evidence is not yet definitive, and more research is needed to establish causation.
Regardless of the outcome of ongoing research, preventing Staphylococcus aureus infections remains crucial for overall health.
Last Updated on September 13, 2023 by Our Editorial Team