Thursday September 27, 2001

AIDS Increases Risk of Non-AIDS-Related Cancers

By Will Boggs, MD


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Suppression of the immune system in patients with HIV increases the risk of some types of cancer that are not specifically related to AIDS, according to a report.

Kaposi's sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and invasive cervical cancer have been designated as AIDS-related cancers, the authors explain, but only inconsistently have other malignancies been reported to be associated with HIV infection.

Brian Gallagher and colleagues from the New York State Department of Health in Albany compared the cancer experience of 122,993 people with AIDS with that of the general population of New York State.

There were 12,698 cancers among the patients with AIDS, the authors report, most of them (89%) occurring in men. Rates of several non-AIDS-related cancers were higher in AIDS patients, including Hodgkin's disease; cancer of the rectum, anus and lower large intestine; cancer of the lungs and airways; and cancers of the brain and central nervous system. For example, women with AIDS were 7.5 times more likely than healthy women to develop cancers of the lung and airways, while men with AIDS were 8 times more likely to develop Hodgkin's disease.

``We have confirmed that cancer occurs in excess for AIDS-related cancers and for (certain) non-AIDS-related cancers,'' the authors write in the September 15th issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

``Cancer is a high morbidity and mortality complication of HIV infection, and evaluating HIV-infected patients for (non-AIDS-related cancers) is important,'' Gallagher told Reuters Health. He added that doctors should closely monitor their patients with AIDS and evaluate other factors that could increase cancer risk.

Gallagher and his colleagues note that the relationship between HIV infection and cancer is poorly understood, and future research on this topic is particularly important, especially since new drug therapies have dramatically increased survival for people with AIDS.