Cancer & HIV

People infected with HIV have a substantially higher risk of some types of cancer compared with uninfected people of the same age. Three of these cancers are known as "acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)-defining cancers" or "AIDS-defining malignancies": Kaposi sarcomanon-Hodgkin lymphoma, and cervical cancer. A diagnosis of any one of these cancers marks the point at which HIV infection has progressed to AIDS. A compromised immune system can increase a person’s risk for cancer. It can also allow for cancer cells to spread faster than in someone without HIV. With the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART), the rates of AIDS-related cancers have dropped significantly. At the same time, people with HIV are at higher than average risk for several other cancers, including Hodgkin lymphoma and cancers of the anus, lung, liver, and skin, The number of cases of these other cancers is increasing in people with HIV.

Some cancers appear in people with HIV at a younger age than in the general population. Some people think that HIV accelerates aging, and that cancers are one sign of this..A careful study suggested that this is not true for most cancers. The study found that most people with HIV are studied at younger ages than the general population. Most people with HIV are between ages 30 and 55, so cancers seem to occur at younger ages. For the general population, increasing age is linked to higher rates of cancer. As the AIDS population ages, the age of cancer cases will increase.

However, people with HIV do appear to develop anal cancer, lung cancer, and Hodgkin lymphoma at a younger age. This may be due to the effects of HIV on these cancers. It could also be caused by early exposure to risk factors for these types of cancer, such as earlier age of starting smoking or sexual activity (leading to HPV infection). Also, people with HIV are monitored more carefully from a younger age, so cancers may be detected earlier.

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