Global burden of deaths from Epstein-Barr virus attributable malignancies 1990-2010

Infect Agent Cancer. 2014 Nov 17;9(1):38. doi: 10.1186/1750-9378-9-38. eCollection 2014.


Background: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is an oncogenic virus implicated in the pathogenesis of a number of human malignancies of both lymphoid and epithelial origin. Thus, a comprehensive and up-to-date analysis focused on the global burden of EBV-attributable malignancies is of significant interest.

Methods: Based on published studies, we estimated the proportion of Burkitt's lymphoma (BL), Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL), nasopharyngeal carcinoma NPC), gastric carcinoma (GC) and post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD) attributable to EBV, taking into consideration age, sex and geographical variations. This proportion was then imputed into the Global Burden of Disease 2010 dataset to determine the global burden of each EBV-attributable malignancy in males and females in 20 different age groups and 21 world regions from 1990 to 2010.

Results: The analysis showed that the combined global burden of deaths in 2010 from all EBV-attributable malignancies was 142,979, representing 1.8% of all cancer deaths. This burden has increased by 14.6% over a period of 20 years. All 5 EBV-attributable malignancies were more common in males in all geographical regions (ratio of 2.6:1). Gastric cancer and NPC accounted for 92% of all EBV-attributable cancer deaths. Almost 50% of EBV-attributed malignancies occurred in East Asia. This region also had the highest age-standardized death rates for both NPC and GC.

Conclusions: Approximately 143,000 deaths in 2010 were attributed to EBV-associated malignancies. This figure is likely to be an underestimate since some of the less prevalent EBV-associated malignancies have not been included. Moreover, the global increase in population and life-expectancy will further increase the overall burden of EBV-associated cancer deaths. Development of a suitable vaccine could have a substantial impact on reducing this burden.

Keywords: Cancer risk factors; EBV; Global cancer mortality; Viral-associated cancers.