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Infections and Cancer: Spotlight on HIV-AIDS

HIV Infection Related to Cancer Incidence

In another feature article where we explore the connection between microbial infection and cancer, we look at the connection between cancer and the HIV-AIDS virus.

In all likelihood, a good portion of America has never heard of anal cancer. That’s because this particular type of cancer is quite rare, affecting only 6,000 individuals in 2012, compared to the hundreds of thousands afflicted with other types of cancer. However, the number of anal cancer cases is slowly but surely on the rise, and researchers believe that the rising number of cases is directly linked to HIV infection.


HIV Infections and Cancer

The number of anal cancer cases has been rising since 1940. Researchers at the National Cancer Institute compared data detailing information regarding individuals affected with HIV and those who also had anal cancer, and found that during the years 1980-2005, over 28% of the male population included in the study that had anal cancer were also HIV positive. However, the number was much lower for women; just over 1%.

The research shows more than a link between HIV infection and cancer—it also shows that if measures can be taken to help reduce the rates of HIV infection, then anal cancer rates could also drop significantly. Individuals with AIDS are typically more susceptible to other types of malignant diseases and cancers as well, such as cervical carcinoma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In another research study, conducted at the UT Southwestern Medical Center, researchers compared data that took into account various ethnic factors and demographics, such as age and gender, and found that the presence of certain types of malignant cancers in HIV-infected patients was 60% higher than in those who were not afflicted.

While the research clearly shows an increased risk of non-AIDS-defining malignancies in HIV-infected individuals, it still remains unclear as to exactly why this is.


Possible Causes for Cancer in HIV-Infected Individuals

Some scientists claim that it is simply because AIDS patients are living longer than they did a few decades ago thanks to improved medication and therapies, and so the incidences of developing malignant diseases is also higher.

Dr. Bedimo, chief of infectious disease at the Veterans Affairs North Texas Health Care System, states another theory, in which he believes that it is the anti-retroviral therapy given to AIDS patients that increase the risk of various cancers. This theory is of course a controversial one and is also under study.

Dr. Bedimo also states that, “The second hypothesis is that HIV-infected patients somehow, either by their lifestyle or other circumstances, are more subject to the traditional risk factors than non-HIV patients.”

He further states a third hypothesis in which, “…HIV or another undetected virus increases a patient’s risk for developing cancer intrinsically.”  This hypothesis connects with our experience at Hope4Cancer Treatment Centers that microbes can play a direct role in the causation of cancer by assuming altered states and affecting mitochondrial function.


The Overrepresentation of Males vs. Females

One thing that is quite common throughout nearly every study is that a large portion of the data involves male patients who have been infected by HIV. When females are also involved in the study, the rates of incidence are still much higher in males than females. A study that was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute correlates this data, revealing that the large increase in anal cancer rates during the years 1980-2005 was highly prevalent in males, and not in females.

Further research is needed to discover if there are other links between the immune system in HIV-infected patients and cancer rates. HIV affects the immune system, but might also do much more that facilitate the development of cancerous cells.

“This article reflects the opinions of the author and those of any of the source articles and should not be misconstrued as medical advice.  None of this information is evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and is not meant to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease.”



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