Lyme Disease and Cancer: Is There a Connection?

This article originally appeared on The Truth About Cancer.

According to a groundbreaking article published by Dr. Dino Prato, Founder of the Envita Medical Center and his team titled “Cancer and Infectious Causes” in 2014, there is clear, reliable, scientific evidence to indicate that at least 25% of all infections lead to cancer.

In fact, Dr. Prato believes this number may be even higher, based on his own personal experiences of treating cancer patients for nearly two decades at Envita. It’s important to know what these infections are and how to treat them properly.

How Do Infections Promote Cancer Formation?

Most of us already know that some viral and bacterial infections can lead to cancer. For instance, infection with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori can cause ulcers in the lining of our stomach or the upper part of our small intestine – and sometimes lead to stomach cancer.

Similarly, human papillomavirus (HPV) infections can cause cervical cancer, and Epstein Barr virus (EBV) infections can cause Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – a type of cancer in immune cells known as B lymphocytes or B cells, whose job is to make antibodies that help protect our body from bacteria and viruses.

You see, infections do three things that help cancer.

First, they weaken our immune system, increasing our body’s susceptibility to cancer. Second, they can cause dramatic changes (known as mutations) in the DNA inside our cells, causing protective cellular mechanisms such as programmed cell death, or apoptosis, to go haywire and pave the way for cancer cells to form and multiply.

Finally, infections are always accompanied by high levels of inflammation, which has been shown to help the growth and spread of cancer.

In other words, viral and bacterial infections promote cancer in multiple ways.

Therefore, treating any infections that are present, thereby reducing our body’s level of inflammation and restoring our immune system to its full capacity, is likely to be an effective method of cancer prevention as well as cancer treatment, ensuring longer remissions and a better quality of life for cancer patients.

According to Dr. Prato, a “surprisingly high number” of patients with late-stage cancer also test positive for Lyme disease and other co-infections.

What Do We Know About Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne illness in North America and Europe. It is a multi-stage disease that causes symptoms ranging from rash, fever, chills, and body aches to joint swelling, weakness, and temporary paralysis.

In the U.S., Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi, which is very closely related to the bacteria that causes syphilis, and is transmitted mainly by deer ticks. In Europe and Asia, other Borrelia species cause Lyme.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector-borne infectious disease in the U.S. today, with an estimated incidence of upwards of 300,000 cases every year.

Unfortunately, deer ticks carry other infections along with Lyme disease, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and human babesiosis, a rare microscopic parasite that infects red blood cells.

Lyme disease is often known as “the great imitator”, because symptomatically it appears very similar to many other disorders, including arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Alzheimer’s disease.

Although complete recovery is seen if patients with early-stage disease receive timely and suitable treatment, some patients keep having lingering symptoms long after the original infection has apparently been cleared.

In fact, some health experts feel that Lyme is a chronic and persistent disease for which the word “cure” is not realistic.

The Curious – and Scary – Case of Dr. Neil Spector

According to Dr. Neil Spector, whose long-undiagnosed Lyme disease resulted in irreversible heart failure and ultimately required him to have a heart transplant surgery, Lyme disease is the infectious disease equivalent of cancer.

Dr. Spector, an Associate Professor at Duke University School of Medicine and Director of Developmental Therapeutics at the Duke Cancer Institute, explains:

We don’t talk about cancer as just one disease anymore, and we should stop talking about Lyme this way. There are so many strains and co-infections. When you’re bitten by a tick, you can get five or ten different infections at the same time.”

There are other eerie similarities between Lyme disease and cancer, according to Dr. Spector. In fact, there have been several instances in which patients diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease turned out to have cancer instead.

Just like cancer cells, B. burgdorferi has developed many sophisticated strategies to evade our immune system and resist antibiotic therapy. For instance, these bacteria change their shape just like cancer cells to protect themselves, become more mobile, more invasive, and so on.

B. burgdorferi bacteria also create so-called “biofilms”, which are considered to be resistant to antibiotics. Biofilms are colonies of microbes, mainly bacteria, which can form anywhere there is moisture and a surface – these include inner surfaces in our body.