Urinary Virus Linked To Prostate Cancer

A virus that normally lurks within the urinary system without causing problems may contribute to the development of prostate cancer, according to a new study. Researchers found evidence of the virus, known as the BK virus, in abnormal prostate tissue thought to be in the early stages of prostate cancer. Abnormal cell changes within the prostate, known as atrophic lesions, are usually the first step in the development of prostate cancer. "The development of cancer is a multi-step process," says researcher Michael Imperiale, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School, in a news release. "Expression of BK viral protein may be just one step among several genetic and environmental factors. We are not saying that BK virus causes prostate cancer, but our results do suggest that the virus plays a role in the transition from normal to uncontrolled growth of prostate cells." Researchers say other studies have detected DNA from the BK virus in prostate cancer cells, but this study is the first to pinpoint the location of the virus to a precursor stage in the development of prostate cancer. The BK virus normally does not cause problems in healthy individuals, but it can cause serious kidney and bladder disease in people with impaired immune systems, such as organ transplant recipients.

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