Infection with HIV, the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome
(AIDS), does not seem to be a direct cause of cancers. But because HIV infection
weakens the body’s immune system, it increases a person’s risk of getting several
types of cancer, especially some linked to other viruses. HIV is spread through
semen, vaginal fluids, blood, and breast milk from an HIV-infected person. HIV is
not spread by insects, through water, or by casual contacts such as talking, shaking
hands, hugging, coughing, sneezing, or from sharing dishes, bathrooms, kitchens,
phones, or computers.
Known routes of HIV spread include:
• Unprotected sex (oral-least likely, vaginal, or anal-most likely) with an
• Injections with needles or injection equipment previously used by an
• Prenatal and perinatal (during birth) exposure of infants from mothers
• Breastfeeding by mothers with HIV
• Transfusion of blood products containing HIV (U.S. blood has been tested
• Organ transplants from an HIV-infected person (donors are now tested for
• Penetrating injuries or accidents (usually needle sticks) in health care workers
HIV infects, weakens and destroys the immune system’s helper T-cells and increases
susceptibility to cancer. This leaves the body susceptible to the damage caused
by other viruses such as HPV, and a weak immune system may not attack and destroy
newly formed cancer cells. HIV infection has been linked to a higher risk of
developing anal cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, lung cancer,
cancers of the mouth and throat, skin cancers (basal cell, squamous cell, and Merkel
cell), Kaposi sarcoma, invasive cervical cancer, and central nervous system lymphoma.
Taking anti-HIV drugs may reduce the risk of getting these cancers.
Less common cancers that are linked to viral infection
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a herpes virus that infects almost everyone in the U.S.
before the age of 20. EBV causes the symptoms of infectious mononucleosis in
some people. EBV remains in the body throughout life and increases a person’s
risk of getting rare cancers, including nasopharyngeal cancer and fast-growing lymphomas
such as Burkitt lymphoma. Other rare cancers that are linked to viral infections,
especially in people with weak immune systems, include Kaposi sarcoma,
primary effusion lymphoma, multicentric Castleman disease, adult T-cell leukemia/
lymphoma (ATL) and Merkel cell skin cancer.
This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel