HIV works by attacking the immune system, making people more susceptible to disease. As a result, researchers from Kaiser Permanente determined that people with this sexually transmitted disease (STD) have an increased risk of developing cancer. Their study found that this population is more likely to get cancer not only because of their HIV status, but also due to the fact that more of them smoke.
The scientists maintained a positive outlook, however, that there might be a way to combat this increased cancer risk in HIV patients. “Taken together, we believe our results support cancer prevention strategies that combine routine prevention activities, such as smoking cessation, with earlier HIV treatment to help maintain a patient’s immune system,” said researcher Michael Silverberg, Ph.D., M.P.H.
According to the National Cancer Institute, people with HIV are 70 times more likely to be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and women with the STD are five times more likely to get cervical cancer. These numbers suggest that people with HIV need to make sure they are doing all they can to reduce their risk of cancer, such as quitting smoking and eating healthy.