Background: Since the beginning of the twentieth century, infection has emerged as a fundamental aspect of cancer causation with a growing number of pathogens recognized as oncogenic. Meanwhile, oncolytic viruses have also attracted considerable interest as possible agents of tumor destruction.
Discussion: Lost in the dichotomy between oncogenic and oncolytic agents, the indirect influence of infectious organisms on carcinogenesis has been largely unexplored. We describe the various ways - from functional aspects to evolutionary considerations such as modernity mismatches - by which infectious organisms could interfere with oncogenic processes through immunity. Finally, we discuss how acknowledging these interactions might impact public health approaches and suggest new guidelines for therapeutic and preventive strategies both at individual and population levels. Infectious organisms, that are not oncogenic neither oncolytic, may play a significant role in carcinogenesis, suggesting the need to increase our knowledge about immune interactions between infections and cancer.
Keywords: Cancer; Evolution; Immunity; Infection; Personal history of infection.