HIV/AIDS-Related Cancer: Risk Factors and Prevention

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 11/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing a cancer related to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Use the menu to see other pages.

What are the risk factors for HIV/AIDS-related cancers?

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. 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, including 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. HPV vaccines can prevent people from developing certain cancers. Learn more about HPV and cancer.

  • 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.

Are there ways to prevent HIV/AIDS-related cancers?

Different factors cause different types of cancer. Researchers continue to look into what factors cause HIV/AIDS-related cancers, including ways to prevent them. Although there is no proven way to completely prevent an HIV/AIDS-related cancer, you may be able to lower your risk. The most effective way to reduce the risk of cancer is to take antiretroviral medication as it is prescribed (see Types of Treatment). Talk with your health care team for more information about your personal risk of cancer.

Learn more about cancer prevention and healthy living.

The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what changes or medical problems an HIV/AIDS-related cancer can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.