An article recently appeared on the Fortune website (23/11/23) which explores the speculative possibility that SARS-CoV-2 infection and long COVID could be connected to an increased risk of cancer. No such link has been conclusively established, but some researchers are concerned by the virus’s ability to cause chronic inflammation, which is a known contributor to cancer.
Other cancer-causing viruses establish persistent long-term infections and evade the immune system. While unclear if SARS-CoV-2 does this, viral reservoirs may allow viral remnants to alter immune responses. Chronic inflammation from COVID-19 could allow mutations and cell changes that lead to cancer.
Extensive tissue damage, low oxygen, oxidative stress, and elevated cytokines seen in COVID-19 patients are also mechanisms by which the virus might raise cancer risk. However, concrete evidence directly linking SARS-CoV-2 to cancer development is lacking so far.
Some studies suggest SARS-CoV-2 may be able to deactivate cancer-fighting pathways or very rarely integrate into human DNA. However, many experts remain skeptical that these occurrences are sufficient to cause cancer. Reactivation of other viruses like Epstein-Barr during COVID-19 also bears monitoring.
Increases in some rare cancers have anecdotally been observed by some oncologists post-COVID. But systematic data is still minimal, and cancer takes time to manifest. Determining if SARS-CoV-2 plays a role requires more research into issues like viral integration and chronic inflammation.
In conclusion, while a connection between SARS-CoV-2 and heightened cancer risk is theoretically possible and concerning to some researchers, there is not yet solid evidence to support this. But experts urge continuing vigilance and research as the virus continues to surprise us. Definitive answers will take time to emerge.
Read the full article here.