In the early 1900s, numerous seminal publications reported that high rates of cancer occurred in certain occupations. During this period, work with infectious agents produced only meager results which seemed irrelevant to humans. Then in the 1980s ground breaking evidence began to emerge that a variety of viruses also cause cancer in humans. There is now sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for human T-cell lymphotrophic virus, human immunodeficiency virus, hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, human papillomavirus, Epstein-Barr virus, and human herpes virus 8 according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Many other causes of cancer have also been identified by the IARC, which include: Sunlight, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, hormones, alcohol, parasites, fungi, bacteria, salted fish, wood dust, and herbs. The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research have determined additional causes of cancer, which include beta carotene, red meat, processed meats, low fibre diets, not breast feeding, obesity, increased adult height and sedentary lifestyles. In brief, a historical review of the discoveries of the causes of human cancer is presented with extended discussions of the difficulties encountered in identifying viral causes of cancer.
Keywords: Cancer; Carcinogens; Causes; Etiology; Historical; Infections; International agency for research on cancer.