From the Journals

HIV infection linked to higher risk of non-melanoma skin cancer



A Danish cohort study provides more evidence of a significant link between HIV infection and two types of skin cancer.

Danish researchers report that HIV-positive patients as a whole faced a higher risk of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), with incidence rate ratios (IRRs) of 1.79 and 5.40, respectively, when compared with a background population, who were HIV-negative.

“The risk of SCC seemed to increase with increasing level of immunosuppression while the increased risk of BCC was restricted to patients reporting MSM [men who have sex with men] as route of infection,” wrote the authors, led by Silje Haukali Omland, MD, PhD, of the department of dermato-venereology, Copenhagen University Hospital.

The Danish nationwide cohort study, which matched each HIV patient with 5 age- and sex-matched individuals from the background population, was published online March 26 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The results are similar to those published elsewhere, as is the finding that HIV-positive patients do not face a higher risk of malignant melanoma. “The results here confirm prior studies and support heightened vigilance for skin conditions, such as SCC and BCC in HIV patients,” said Michael J. Silverberg, PhD, of Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, in an interview after reviewing the study findings. He was not a study author.

Researchers have long noted a connection between various types of cancer and HIV infection. But, as noted in a 2013 study led by Dr. Silverberg, research into links between HIV and non-melanoma skin cancers has been sparse and inconclusive. That study of white adults found higher adjusted rate ratios for SCC (2.6) and BCC (2.1) among those who were HIV-positive compared with those who were HIV-negative (J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013 Mar 6;105[5]:350-60).

In the Danish study, researchers tracked sex-and age-matched cohorts of HIV-infected (4,280) and non-HIV-infected patients (21,399) aged 16 years or older from study inclusion through as late as 2014. All the HIV-positive subjects had taken antiretroviral medications. The researchers also compared the HIV-positive patients to their non-HIV-infected siblings.


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