Cancer gone viral: The kissing disease virus can cause cancer?
Cancer EBV epstein-barr virus

Cancer gone viral: The kissing disease virus can cause cancer?

Dr. Talia Henkle
Dr. Talia Henkle

In 10 seconds? The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) causes about 1.5% of all human cancers. Almost everyone is infected with EBV, but due to a wide range of interplaying environmental and genetic factors, only a small percentage develop EBV-related cancers.

What’s the story? EBV is a member of the herpesvirus family that is most commonly known for causing mononucleosis–the ‘kissing disease’–that spreads around college campuses. Interestingly, most people get infected as young children and never experience any symptoms (you only get sick from EBV infection if you don’t catch it until you’re older). About 90% of adults in the US are infected but they are unaware. And like all herpesviruses, once you get it, you’re stuck with it for life–which gives it the decades needed to form cancer.


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