The Cancer Risk for Those With HIV

Individuals with HIV have a considerably greater risk for certain types of cancer vs those who do not have HIV at the same age, which are known as “AIDS-defining malignancies,” that are Kaposi sarcoma, aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and cervical cancer. Those with HIV who are diagnosed with any of these cancers also confirms an AIDS diagnosis. Individuals with HIV are also at a greater risk for other types of cancer, known as “non-AIDS-defining cancers,” that include cancers of the anus, liver, oral cavity/pharynx, and lung, as well as Hodgkin lymphoma. HIV infection is also linked to a greater risk of mortality from cancer compared with those who are not infected with HIV.

Those with HIV are at an increased risk for certain types of cancer because HIV weakens the immune system, which limits the body’s ability to fight off certain infections that could possibly lead to cancer. Since the start of using combination antiretroviral therapy (cART), the incidence of some of these cancers in individuals infected with HIV have reduced; however, it is still considerably higher than those of the general population. The use of cART has not impacted the incidence of all cancers related to HIV, as there has been an increase in non-AIDS-defining cancers, but cART has aided in reducing the amount of deaths from AIDS, with the population of those with HIV growing in size and becoming older.

Reference: HIV Infection and Cancer Risk. National Cancer Institute. Updated September 14, 2017. Accessed November 4, 2022.
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