HIV and AIDS-Related Cancer: Risk Factors and Prevention

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 01/2016

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing an HIV/AIDS-related cancer. To see other pages, use the menu.

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer. Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. However, knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.

The following factors may raise a person’s risk of developing an HIV/AIDS-related cancer:

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV). Research shows that infection with this virus is a risk factor for some cancers, such as cervical cancer. HPV is most commonly passed from person to person during sexual activity. Sexual activity with someone who has HPV is the most common way someone gets HPV. There are different types of HPV, called strains. Research links some HPV strains more strongly with certain types of cancers. There are vaccines available to protect you from some HPV strains.

  • HHV-8. HHV-8 is related to other herpes viruses, such as the viruses that cause cold sores and genital herpes, as well as cytomegalovirus (CMV). Other herpes viruses, however, are not the same as HHV-8 and are not thought to be risk factors for cancer. HHV-8 infection is associated with Kaposi sarcoma and primary effusion lymphoma (see Introduction).

  • Epstein Barr virus (EBV). EBV is a herpes-related virus that causes mononucleosis. It is also associated with primary central nervous system lymphoma, high-grade B-cell lymphoma, and primary effusion lymphoma.


Different factors cause different types of cancer. Researchers continue to look into what factors cause this type of cancer. Although there is no proven way to completely prevent and HIV/AIDS-related cancer, you may be able to lower your risk. Talk with your doctor for more information about your personal risk of cancer.

The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what body changes or medical problems an HIV/AIDS-related cancer can cause. Or, use the menu to choose another section to continue reading this guide.