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For Patients and Providers

The HIV/AIDS Cancer Match Study is not a clinical study and does not evaluate cancer treatment. The investigators cannot offer medical advice to patients or their providers.

HIV-infected people have a high risk for certain cancers. This high risk occurs because HIV weakens the immune system. Also, HIV-infected people are frequently infected with other viruses that cause cancer themselves. In addition, cancer risk is increased by tobacco and alcohol use.

Regular medical care provides the opportunity for HIV-infected patients to discuss their health concerns with their providers and receive appropriate HIV treatment. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) can reduce the risk of some cancers, most notably Kaposi sarcoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. For HIV-infected women, specific screening is recommended for cervical cancer. Other cancers can be prevented through changes in behavior, such as by quitting smoking or reducing alcohol consumption.

Cancers for which HIV-infected people have a high risk:

  • Kaposi sarcoma (KS): This cancer is caused by human herpesvirus 8, also known as KS-associated herpesvirus. HAART reduces the risk of this cancer.
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL): In many cases, this cancer is caused by Epstein Barr virus. HAART reduces the risk of this cancer.
  • Cervical cancer: This cancer is caused by human papillomavirus. HIV-infected women should receive regular screening for cervical cancer from their HIV provider or a gynecologist. Screening consists of a pelvic exam, during which the provider obtains a Pap smear and testing for high risk strains of human papillomavirus. Screening can detect early stages in the development of cancer, which can be treated to prevent progression.
  • Lung cancer: This cancer is caused by smoking, which is very common in some HIV-infected populations. HIV-infected people appear to be especially susceptible to the cancer-causing effects of tobacco. HIV-infected people should work with their healthcare provider to quit smoking. Medications and counseling can increase the chances of successfully quitting tobacco use.
  • Anal cancer: This cancer is caused by human papillomavirus. People who have had anal intercourse are at especially high risk, but the cancer can also occur in other HIV-infected people. Screening through the use of anal Pap smear tests can detect early stages of the cancer, and prompt treatment may prevent progression.
  • Liver cancer: This cancer is caused by infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV), and also by excessive alcohol intake. HIV-infected people should receive the HBV vaccine, if they have not already been infected with HBV. HIV-infected people who also have HBV or HCV infection should be monitored for liver damage and should moderate their use of alcohol. Treatment for HBV and HCV can result in clearance of these viruses.

Cancers for which HIV-infected people do not have an elevated risk:

  • Colon cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer

These cancers are common in the general population, and HIV-infected people do not have an increased risk compared with uninfected people. Because effective HIV therapy now allows HIV-infected people to live longer healthier lives, people with HIV infection should receive the same screening for these cancers as people in the general population.