Sarcoma - Kaposi: Risk Factors and Prevention

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 08/2023

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing Kaposi sarcoma. Use the menu to see other pages.

What are the risk factors for Kaposi sarcoma?

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 can raise a person’s risk of developing Kaposi sarcoma:

  • Human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8). Kaposi sarcoma is caused by this virus, also called the Kaposi sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV). However, most people with HHV-8 infection do not develop Kaposi sarcoma. The cancer appears most often when a person with HHV-8 also has problems with their immune system function.

  • Immune deficiency. People with immune deficiency due to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) or medications that suppress the immune system after organ transplantation have a higher risk of developing Kaposi sarcoma.

  • Ethnicity. People of Jewish or Mediterranean descent, as well as equatorial Africans, have a higher risk of developing Kaposi sarcoma.

  • Sex. Men have a higher risk of developing Kaposi sarcoma than women.

  • Sexual activity. Unprotected sexual activity can increase the risk of infection with HHV-8 as well as HIV, because these viruses are spread through bodily fluids. Learn more about HIV/AIDS-related cancer.

Are there ways to prevent Kaposi sarcoma?

Different factors cause different types of cancer. Researchers continue to look into what factors cause Kaposi sarcoma, including ways to prevent it. Although there is no proven way to completely prevent Kaposi sarcoma, you can significantly lower your risk by avoiding the known risk factors for HIV/AIDS, especially by avoiding risky practices, such as having unprotected sex and using intravenous (IV) needles that have been used by someone else. Talk with your health care team for more information about your personal risk of Kaposi sarcoma.

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 Kaposi sarcoma can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.