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HIV and Cancer
Jan 17, 2000

Is there anywhere you can suggest I can locate information on women with HIV and breast cancer? I am 38, have been positive for 10 years and recently found a lump in my breast. Or, is this just another area where we will find no information because we only study men? Sorry for the tone in that last sentence. I was annoyed at your answer to the question "Why is it that HIV + women seem to have a lot of abnormal pap smears? The correct answer is "We don't know, because it has only begun to be studied recently." Like so many other issues pertaining to women and HIV. Thanks.

Response from Dr. Feinberg

HIV+ women more often have abnormal Pap smears because the damage done by HIV to the immune system makes them prone to illnesses caused by HPV (human papilloma virus). Women who have immune deficiencies for reasons other than HIV (such as organ transplants) also have an increased risk of HPV and abnormal Pap smears. It is not yet known whether HIV confers an increased risk of other kinds of cancerslike breast or lung, which do not seem to be more common in people with other kinds of immune deficiencies. There are studies under way to investigate this, but no answers yet because many cancers take years and years to develop.

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