HIV and AIDS-Related Cancer: Risk Factors and Prevention

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 12/2014

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 on the side of your screen.

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 infection. Research indicates that infection with this virus is a risk factor for cervical cancer. HPV is most commonly passed from person to person during sexual activity. There are different types, or strains, of HPV, and some strains are more strongly linked with certain types of cancers. Factors that raise the risk of becoming infected with HPV include becoming sexually active at an early age, having many partners or having sex with a person who has had many partners, and having sex with a man who has penile warts. HPV vaccines protect against specific strains of the virus.

HHV-8 infection. 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 Overview).

Epstein Barr virus (EBV) infection. 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.

Research continues to look into the factors that cause an HIV/AIDS-related cancer and what people can do to lower their personal risk. There is no proven way to completely prevent these cancers, but there may be steps you can take to lower your cancer risk. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about your personal risk of developing cancer.

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