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The Changing Face of Cancer in HIV/AIDS Patients

April 19, 2011

Certain cancers -- Kaposi's sarcoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and invasive cervical cancer -- strike the HIV-positive population at much higher rates than the general population, and, with the exception of cervical cancer, are associated with reduced immunity. With effective antiretroviral therapy helping US HIV patients live dramatically longer lives, an increasing number now are developing non-AIDS-defining cancers that typically occur at older ages.

Researchers with the National Cancer Institute estimated the annual number of cancers in the HIV population, both with and without AIDS, from 1991 to 2005.


From 1991-1995 to 2001-2005, the estimated number of AIDS-defining cancers among AIDS patients declined by 70 percent, to 10,325. Concurrently, non-AIDS-defining cancers increased three-fold, to 10,059. Despite these shifts, Kaposi's sarcoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma remained the most common cancers in the AIDS population.

Compared to the general population: Lung cancer is three times higher in the HIV population; liver cancer is five times higher; Hodgkin lymphoma is 11 times higher; and anal cancer is 29 times higher, the study showed. People with HIV are more likely to smoke, and they are more likely to be co-infected with human papillomavirus, hepatitis B and C.

The researchers concluded that "increases in non-AIDS-defining cancers were mainly driven by growth and aging of the AIDS population. This growing burden requires targeted cancer prevention and treatment strategies."

The study, "Cancer Burden in the HIV-Infected Population in the United States," was published early online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (2011; doi:10.1093/jnci/djr076).

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Excerpted from:
Wall Street Journal

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

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