HIV Increases Skin Cancer Risk
According to a recent study, non-melanoma skin cancer is found more frequently in patients who have HIV – specifically, two particular types of skin cancer are at least twice as likely to form in the skin of patients. This comprehensive study included tens of thousands of individuals and was conducted over the course of more than a decade. It was found that HIV antiretroviral treatments did not seem to have an effect on the incidence of skin cancer.
This is a one-of-a-kind study as previous research did not include these specific types of non-melanoma skin cancers. This is of particular interest to HIV doctors because with life expectancy of HIV patients increasing, many such individuals are now facing other life threatening illnesses like cancer.
It is interesting to note that HIV positive individuals with low CD4 counts had a greater incidence of squamous forms of skin cell cancers than HIV positive individuals with high CD4 counts, who had similar occurrences as non-HIV patients.
This is not the only cancer found to be more common in HIV positive individuals – a wide range of cancer studies have shown that a compromised immune system leads to an increased likelihood of many types of cancer. In support of this theory there are also numerous studies featuring immunosuppressed transplant patients.
Statistically, it is difficult to detect forms of skin cancer other than melanoma early on, but this study conducted in Northern California took a unique approach to patient care, allowing for earlier detection of the disease which significantly improves survival rate.
So what does this test mean for HIV patients and their doctors? The results call for HIV doctors to keep a close eye out for difficult to detect forms of skin cancer because of their prevalence in HIV-positive individuals – frequent screening is of course the best way to catch the disease early enough for an optimistic prognosis.