Epstein-Barr virus can cause cancer

Epstein-Barr virus can cause cancer

Epstein-Barr virus has now been shown to cause DNA breaks in a region which regulates human healthy cell growth; EBV has been previously implicated in breast cancer, lymphoma, nasopharyngeal cancer, gastric cancer and lung cancer.

What is Epstein Barr Virus?

Approximately 90 per cent of adults have come into contact with Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) at some point in their lives - it is the most common and most infectious virus. It is present in 50 per cent of under 5s, according to the CDC.

If we are young (under 15-16 years old), we may not have even had any symptoms when it attacked us; for others it can mean 3 months of weakness and fatigue. ‘Kissing Disease’, as it can be called because it spreads through saliva and bodily fluids, hits many young people between the ages of 16 and 25. 30-50 per cent can develop infectious 'mononucleosis' with fever, headaches, swollen lymph nodes and even a swollen liver and spleen.

The presence of EBV has been linked with several cancers. 

Epstein-Barr Virus and Lymphoma 

For example, in blood and lymph cancer EBV increases risk and has been linked to an increased risk of recurrence, but its presence is not a consistent risk factor.. According to a study in the Lancet (1

  • In B-cell Lymphoma, there was a strong association for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (found in 31% of cases) but only in 5% of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma cases and 2% Follicular lymphoma cases.

  • In NK and T-cell lymphomas, it was found in 25% of cases

  • In lymphoplasmacytic lymphomas, it was found in 11% of cases

  • In chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), it was found in 5% of cases.

The research noted that there was also a significant link between its presence and cancer recurrence.

So the question is ...

How might Epstein-Barr Virus cause cancer?

Research (2) from UC San Diego, Ludwig Cancer Research, in La Jolla, has shown how EBV might lead to cancer by causing 'breaks' (not a mutation) in your DNA. The virus itself makes a protein EBNA-1, which the research team found could bind at specific points to your DNA. This allows it to make copies of itself and persist in the body. 

In the research, the EBNA1 was shown to build up in two particular points on the host DNA. Neither point codes for proteins; both are on chromosome 11 and this region looks almost identical to the virus’ own genome. In other words it is binding to a sequence in your DNA which looks like its own so it can replicate.

However, these points in your DNA are fragile, and binding to them causes rapid breaks appearing in 40 per cent of cells within 24 hours. These breaks are in a region of the DNA recognised for healthy cell regulation. Thus these breaks could mean a loss of normal cell regulation and result in cancer.

Epstein-Barr Virus and Breast Cancer, Lung cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer 

In a 2019 meta-analysis, researchers concluded that there was a strong statistical relationship between the presence of Epstein Barr and the development of breast cancer (3). Similar lung cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer analyses suggested that the latent presence of EBV in the body seemed to cause a change and proliferation of epithelial tissues by causing ‘immortal’ cells (4). 

Immortal cells? This same theory holds for certain lymphoma cases. Scientists now believe a rogue cell is created in the bone marrow that then copies uncontrollably.

Epstein-Barr Virus, autoimmunity and the Thyroid

Viral infection is one of the most frequently considered factors in autoimmunity particularly those involved in Thyroid diseases including Graves and Hashimoto's. In a 2015 study (5), virus encoded RNA was found in 80.7% of Hashimoto's thyroiditis cases and 62.5% of Graves disease thyroiditis cases. Researchers concluded that the presence pointed to a higher risk of primary thyroid lymphoma development.

How might you treat Epstein-Barr Virus?

The first problem is that Epstein-Barr is already in 90 per cent of us and is mostly dormant. It is Herpesvirus 4. Most Herpes viruses live in our nerve endings, only becoming 'active' when we are 'run down' and our immune system is low - think cold sores. Epstein-Barr virus is somewhat different - it attaches to our B-lymphocytes and can reduce are ability to fight infection. Hence the symptoms of mononucleosis and swollen lymph nodes and spleen.

How does it 'reactivate'? A weakened immune system is felt to be the main cause. But recent research on varicella (shingles) showed that there can be inter-viral effects. For example, research from Tuft's showed Covid infection is associated with higher levels of shingles infection, which in turn reactivates Herpes, which can lead to dementia (6).

How can you weaken Epstein-Barr? 'With difficulty', is the honest answer. It is probably more realistic to try to get the virus to become dormant again via boosting your immune system strongly - for example, with Echinacea, Cat's claw, Astragalus, Grape seed extract, Pine bark extract, Essiac, Turmeric and so on.

Are there any natural antivirals that can help?

 * Cordyceps medicinal mushroom - a 2014 study (7) showed that cordycepin reduced EBV viral load and infection rate significantly. A further 2016 study showed that Cordycepin could enhance conventional antitumour chemotherapy in EBV-linked cancers (8). The mushroom compound must be organic.

* Olive Leaf Extract contains Oleuropein which is a known antiviral. It also boosts the immune system. It is recommended by a number of health experts. Suggested dose is 500 mg twice a day for 90 days. We use this.

* Pau d'Arco - Another antiviral this time from a South American tree bark. Suggested dose is 1000 mg twice a day for 90 days. We also use this.

 * Licorice root - The active ingredient against EBV is Glycyrrhizic acid.

 * Monolaurin which is derived from lauric acid. This seems particularly active against Epstein-Barr. Coconut oil contains high quantities of lauric acid.

When we used a combination of 12 weeks Pau d'Arco, alongside oregano oil 180 mg x 2 for 7 days then 400 mg Artemisinin for 7 days, in total 6 times, one cancer patient reported that her herpes, which had been active for 20 years, disappeared.

Go to: Virus found in breast, prostate and colorectal cancer metastases



  1. Lymphomas associated with Epstein-Barr virus infection in 2020: Results from a large, unselected case series in France; Marie Donzel et al; eClinical Medicin, September 30 2022

  2. Chromosomal fragile site breakage by EBV-encoded EBNA1 at clustered repeats; Julia Su Zhou Li, Ammal Abbasi, Dong Hyun Kim, Scott M Lippman, Ludmil B Alexandrov, Don W Cleveland;  Nature. 2023 Apr;616(7957):504-509.

  3. Epstein-Barr virus and risk of breast cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis; Mohammad Farahmand et al; Future Oncol. 2019 Aug;15(24):2873-2885.  

  4. Epstein-Barr Virus Infection Promotes Epithelial Cell Growth by Attenuating Differentiation-Dependent Exit from the Cell Cycle; Mark R Eichelberg et al; mBio. 2019 Aug 20;10(4):e01332-19

  5. The role of Epstein-Barr virus infection in the development of autoimmune thyroid diseases; Andrea Janegova et al;

  6. Viruses can interact to trigger Alzheimer’s - CWHW

  7. Cordycepin is a novel chemical suppressor of Epstein-Barr virus replication; Eunhyun Ryu et al; Oncoscience 2014

  8. Cordycepin enhances EBV-lytic infection and EBV-positive tumor treatment; Yinping Du; 2016 July Canc Lettr




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