People with HIV are at a much greater risk of developing certain cancers - including of the lung, liver, head, and neck - than the general population, according to research reported Tuesday at a medical conference in National Harbor, Md.
“We’re seeing people we have treated successfully for HIV at much higher risk” for cancer, said Dr. Kevin Cullen, director of the University of Maryland’s Greenebaum Cancer Center.
The research, presented by Johns Hopkins epidemiologist Meredith Shiels at the seventh annual American Association for Cancer Research International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, found that people with HIV are twice as likely to develop several cancers not previously linked to the virus. Earlier studies have found the risk of certain cancers is up to ten times higher for people with HIV.
Some of the cancers seen most commonly among HIV patients are those known to have viral causes: anal, head and neck cancers, which have been linked to human papillomavirus; and liver cancer, which can be caused by hepatitis.
Various hypotheses have been offered for the HIV-cancer connection: Thanks to improved drug therapy, more HIV patients are living longer. Patients’ immune systems may be weakened by the virus or damaged by antiretrovirals; indeed, one researcher has questioned whether the drugs themselves may be carcinogenic. Some people with HIV may also engage in more high-risk behaviors.
“We’re really at the first stages of systematically looking at the epidemic and fully looking at cancer,” said Dr. William Blattner, associate director of the University of Maryland’s Institute of Human Virology. “The unusual observation is the cancers are occurring at a much younger age.”
Dr. Malcolm Brock, a Johns Hopkins thoracic surgeon, said HIV patients have three to five times the lung cancer risk of the general population, a phenomenon being studied by researchers from Hopkins and the National Cancer Institute.
Date of Publication
Stephanie Desmon, Baltimore Sun
At Risk Persons Cancer HIV Positive Persons Research
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