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Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2012 Oct;16(10):1377-88.

Non-AIDS-defining cancers among HIV-infected people.

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Department of Clinical and Molecular Biomedicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Department of Surgery; University of Catania, Catania, Italy.


The natural history of HIV infection has been greatly changed by the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). As a consequence of improved immune function, the incidence of AIDS-defining cancers (ADCs), such as Kaposi's sarcoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) and invasive cervical cancer, has significantly declined. On the contrary, non-AIDS-defining cancers (NADCs), such as hepatocellular carcinoma, anal cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma, have gradually emerged as a major fraction of the overall cancer burden. The reasons are still partially unknown. Some of the increased risk may be explained by a high prevalence of cancer risk factors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, human papilloma virus (HPV) infection and HCV infection among HIV-infected people. The role of immunosuppression in the development of NADCs is controversial, as several studies have not found a clear-cut evidence of an association between the degree of immunosuppression and the development of NADCs. Analogously, the impact of HAART is still not well defined. Future research should focus on the etiology of NADCs, in order to shed light on the pathogenesis of cancer and ultimately to work for prevention; moreover, additional studies should evaluate the best therapeutic approaches to NADCs and the impact of cancer screening interventions among HIV-infected people, in an effort to diagnose cancer at an earlier stage.

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