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Immunodeficiency, be it congenital, therapeutic, or infectious in origin, increases the risk of certain, but not all, types of cancer. A common feature of these cancers is that specific infectious agents appear to be important in their etiology, not only in immunodeficient subjects but also in the general population. People with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) are at an increased risk of Kaposi's sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva, and childhood leiomyosarcoma. It is striking that most of these cancers have been associated with specific human herpesvirus (HHV) infections: HHV-8 with Kaposi's sarcoma and the closely related Epstein-Barr virus with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, and possibly also with childhood leiomyosarcoma. Moreover, similar associations between these viruses and cancer have been found, albeit inconsistently, in people who are not immunosuppressed. Further research is needed to establish whether the risk of other cancers is also increased in people with AIDS, although, if so, the cancers are likely to be rare or to have comparatively small associated relative risks. Existing evidence suggests that there may be no marked increase in the risk of two common cancers that are known to be caused by infectious agents--hepatocellular carcinoma and invasive carcinoma of the uterine cervix. The apparent lack of an increase in invasive cervical cancer is unexpected and needs further investigation, especially since the prevalence of cervical infection with human papillomaviruses and of low-grade preneoplastic changes in the cervical epithelium is increased in women with AIDS. With the prospect of improved survival in people with AIDS, the effect of immunosuppression on cancer is likely to become an increasingly important issue.


Journal article


J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr

Publication Date



1 - 6


Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, Adult, Child, Female, Humans, Neoplasms