In response to malaria infection, phagocytes, such as macro-phages and neutrophils, produce superoxide and thence the other reactive oxygen species (ROS) with which to kill the parasites. Excess ROS is normally eliminated by the body’s natural scavenger molecules; however, in the event of a vast excess of ROS, as may be the case in acute as well as chronic malaria patients, the natural scavengers may be overwhelmed. We hypothesize that unscavenged ROS in malaria patients causes DNA damage in normal host cells which, if unrepaired or incorrectly repaired, could result in oncogene activation and eventually lead to cancer. An epidemiologic study may be warranted in malaria-endemic regions to investigate the possible relationship between malaria infection and cancer risk.
Medical Hypotheses 07/1990; 32(2):121-3. DOI:10.1016/0306-9877(90)90034-C