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Basal Cell Carcinoma and HIV
Jul 18, 2003

I just received a diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma on my left arm. The dermatologist assured me that it is the type of cancer that can easily be removed -- it's a red ugly looking sore -- and I've made an appointment to have it done. I am very fair skinned and have sun damage.

My question is: with HIV, am I at greater risk of more severe skin cancer? My T-cell count is 502, as of yesterday, and my viral load is nondetectable. I understand that very fair skinned people are more susceptible naturally to skin cancers; I'm not sure if HIV will make the likelihood greater.

Response from Dr. Dezube

Basal cell cancers are very common in fair skinned people, whether they are HIV positive or negative. They are even more common in HIV positive folks. Your dermatologist gave you correct information. The vast majority of basal cell carcinomas can be removed. They are typically NOT life-threatening. If you got one basal cell carcinoma, then it is likely that you may develop more as time goes on. It is important that you go to regular follow-up visits either with your dermatologist or with your HIV doctor who can carefully look over your skin for any new lesions. Please don't lose sleep over these type of cancers. It's just one of the many things life dishes out-- you need to have them removed, but you don't have to worry that they will shorten your life. In the meantime, try to protect yourself from the sun (hats, sun-blockers, and so on) at the appropriate times.

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