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How does HIV-infection lead to cancer?
Oct 18, 2002

How does HIV-infection lead to cancer?

Response from Dr. Dezube

HIV infection weakens the immune system as manifested by a falling CD4 cell (T cell) count. HIV also causes many other defects in the immune system. This weakened immune system in turn leads to Kaposi's sarcoma, Lymphoma, and many other cancers. Most of the cancers which HIV patients get are related to viruses such as EBV (Epstein Barr virus), KSHV (HHV-8, Kaposi's sarcoma herpesvirus), HPV (human papilloma virus), and others. In the absence of HIV infection, these viruses (EBV, KSHV, HPV) lead to cancer only on occasion. In the presence of HIV infection, however, these viruses (EBV, KSHV, HPV) are not well controlled because of defects in the immune system. As a result, cancer is more common in HIV-infected patients than in HIV-negative patients. HIV infection can cause cancers by other mechanisms, but that could be the subject of a whole other discertation.


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