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Vetted resources and information on current public health events.

AIDS-Associated Cancers

In the past, people with HIV often got three types of cancer: Kaposi's Sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and cervical cancer (in women). These are called AIDS-related cancers because they occur more often in people whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS. Here are some facts about these cancers:

  • Kaposi's Sarcoma This cancer grows into reddish-purple patches on your skin that cannot kill you. It can be deadly if it gets in your throat or lungs. A herpes virus causes Kaposi's Sarcoma.
  • Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma This cancer usually starts in the lymph glands, which are part of your immune system and help fight off disease. Lymph glands are mainly in the neck, under the arms, in the groin, and inside the belly. Epstein-Barr Virus is a risk factor for this cancer.
  • Invasive cervical cancer This affects the cervix, the entrance from the vagina to the uterus. Almost all women who get cervical cancer also have HPV. Having HIV and HPV makes cervical cancer grow faster.


Non-AIDS-Associated Cancers

People with HIV are getting more non-AIDS-related cancers. This happens even if they take HIV medications and have healthier immune systems. These cancers affect many different parts of the body. Smoking is a risk factor for many of these cancers. Here are some facts about non-AIDS-related cancers:

  • Lung Cancer Smoking is the main risk factor. Lung cancer among people with HIV has become more common since people began taking HIV medications and living longer. Quitting smoking, exercising, and keeping your immune system strong greatly lowers your lung cancer risk.
  • Hodgkin's Lymphoma is another cancer that occurs mainly in the lymph glands. It grows quickly in people who have weak immune systems.
  • Anal Cancer Men who have sex with men have a greater risk of anal cancer. Anal sex does not directly cause anal cancer. But, it can lead to getting HPV, which makes your risk for anal cancer much higher.
  • Liver cancer Having hepatitis B or hepatitis C and HIV makes your risk of liver cancer very high. Smoking, drinking alcohol, using street drugs, and sharing needles or other equipment to shoot drugs are also risk factors.
  • Other skin cancers Skin cancers other than Kaposi's sarcoma are becoming more common.

AIDS-Associated Cancer Care at MSKCC

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

AIDS-Associated Cancers

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, results from infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Over time, HIV attacks and breaks down the immune system, which protects the body from infection and disease. People with a weakened immune system have an increased risk for other infections and certain types of cancer.  

Three kinds of cancer, called AIDS-defining cancers, are significantly more common in people with HIV: Kaposi sarcoma, certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma , and invasive cervical cancer. Taking the powerful antiretroviral drug combination HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) reduces the risk of getting these cancers but does not eliminate them. 

People with HIV who have cancers that are not strongly associated with AIDS, such as Hodgkin lymphoma, anal cancer, and liver cancer, also have much higher survival rates if they take HAART.

Diagnosis & Treatment at MSKCC

As a comprehensive cancer center, Memorial Sloan Kettering has medical oncologists, infectious disease specialists, and other physicians with world-class expertise in diagnosing AIDS-related cancers.

Our team includes specialists in cancer as well as infectious disease who have insight into the special needs of people with HIV. We create robust, individualized treatment plans for each patient with an AIDS-related cancer and are often able to provide intensive therapies that help to control or eliminate it.

Through the work of our researchers and others, we foresee a future in which treatments will effectively control the viral infections that can lead to some cancers and also boost the immune system to improve survival. 

We have been a major participant and leader in the National Cancer Institute–supported clinical trials group to work on innovative trials for AIDS-related cancers — the AIDS Malignancy Consortium — since its inception in 1995.

Find an AIDS Associated Cancer Expert

At Memorial Sloan Kettering, people with AIDS-related cancer are treated by a team of experts including specialists in medical oncology, dermatology, infectious disease, and radiation oncology who work together to develop an individualized treatment plan.

Select from the list to learn more about these specialists, from their education, training, board certifications, and current publications to specific areas of clinical expertise.


Our Clinical Trials

If you are eligible to participate in a clinical trial, you may have access to new therapies that are not yet widely available. Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new ways to diagnose and treat cancer. These studies can also help doctors compare the effectiveness of prevention strategies or other aspects of your care.

We are experienced in identifying people who are most likely to benefit from a particular therapy, and we can help guide you through the process of enrolling in the most appropriate clinical trial.

Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering are involved in developing and conducting studies with support from the National Cancer Institute’s AIDS Malignancy Consortium to evaluate new treatments for Kaposi sarcoma.

Here you can find a continually updated listing of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s current clinical trials for AIDS-associated cancers.

Follow-Up Care & Support for AIDS-Associated Cancers

Once your treatment for an AIDS-related cancer is complete, we will likely recommend that you continue to take highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) to prevent your cancer from returning and new cancers from developing. Our multidisciplinary team of doctors will work with you to implement strategies that reduce your risk of side effects and of developing other AIDS-associated cancers.

Our Resources for Life After Cancer program provides a full range of educational support services, including individual and family counseling, periodic lectures or workshops to provide medical updates, and practical guidance on employment and insurance issues.

HIV/AIDS & Cancer Resources