Study Explores Risk of Breast, Uterine, and Ovarian Cancer in Women with AIDS

Study Explores Risk of Breast, Uterine, and Ovarian Cancer in Women with AIDS

According to the results of a study published in the British Journal of Cancer, women with AIDS have a lower risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer than women in the general population; risk of breast cancer was lower among women with AIDS in the pre-HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) era, but is now similar to the risk among women in the general population.

People living with AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) have an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as Kaposis sarcoma, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and cervical cancer. There is less information, however, about whether AIDS influences the risk of breast, endometrial (uterine), or ovarian cancers.

To explore the frequency of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancer among women with AIDS, researchers conducted a study among more than 85,000 women. The women had been diagnosed with AIDS between 1980 and 2002. Half the women were over the age of 36 at the time of their AIDS diagnosis.

The frequency of cancer among women in the study was compared to the frequency of cancer among women in the general population.

  • The risk of ovarian cancer among women with AIDS was similar to the risk among women in the general population.
  • Women with AIDS were less likely to develop endometrial cancer than women in the general population. This reduced risk of endometrial cancer was observed throughout the study period (1980-2002).
  • Women with AIDS were also less likely to develop breast cancer, but this reduced risk was most apparent during the early years of the study period (before the introduction of HAART). During the most recent time period (1996-2002), the risk of breast cancer among women with AIDS was similar to the risk among women in the general population.

The researchers conclude that between 1980 and 2002, women with AIDS were less likely than women in the general population to develop breast or endometrial cancer. This may be due to hormonal changes among women with AIDS, or to a direct effect of the virus. The introduction of HAART in the 1990s appeared to reduce some of these effects, and women with AIDS now have breast cancer rates that are similar to women in the general population.

Reference: Goedert JJ, Schairer C, McNeel TS, Hessol NA, Rabkin CS, Engels EA. Risk of Breast, Ovary, and Uterine Corpus Cancers among 85,269 Women with AIDS. British Journal of Cancer. 2006;95:642-648.

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