Cancer Study finds high rates of cancer among older people living with HIV

Published: March 3, 2015

Theo Smart
Original Article:

Older people living with HIV (over the age of 65) are at greatly increased risk of HIV-associated cancers, although many of the most commonly diagnosed cancers may be related more to ageing than to HIV, according to a study reported last week at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2015), in Seattle, USA.

“In our study population, over the course of five years, more than 10% of people with HIV had a cancer diagnosis. This is reflecting the contributions of both ageing and HIV to cancer risk in this population,” said Elizabeth Yanik from the US National Cancer Institute, who presented the study findings during a thematic discussion on cancers in young and older people living with HIV.

Cancers associated with HIV

As pointed out by Eric Engels of the National Cancer Institute, who moderated the discussion and was a co-author of the study, HIV has long been linked to three AIDS-defining cancers – Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS), non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and cervical cancer – the risks of which are greatly increased in people with HIV compared to the rest of the population. Another four cancers – Hodgkin’s lymphoma, anal cancer, lung cancer and liver cancer – are also found more commonly in people living with HIV than in the general population.

The relative contribution of these cancers to the overall burden of cancer in people with HIV has been changing, though. Since the era of antiretroviral therapy (ART), opportunistic infections and AIDS-related cancers have been decreasing in incidence – although NHL is still the most common cancer in people living with HIV. The trends for other HIV-associated cancers have been more variable, however. Recently, lung cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma appear to be declining in incidence, while the incidence of liver and anal cancer seems to be increasing. In addition, the population with HIV is ageing, and the incidence of certain cancers increases greatly with age.

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