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Women with HIV face higher rates of certain cancers: B.C. study

Researcher says HIV-positive women in treatment program are more likely to be diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer.

File photo of pills prepared for HIV/AIDS patients on February 21, 2015. A significant portion of the women with HIV in the study that were also diagnosed with cancer had lapses in their HIV treatment the year before.

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File photo of pills prepared for HIV/AIDS patients on February 21, 2015. A significant portion of the women with HIV in the study that were also diagnosed with cancer had lapses in their HIV treatment the year before.

Woman living with HIV face elevated risk of certain cancers, a new British Columbia study has found.

By comparing databases of the B.C. Cancer Agency and the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE), Simon Fraser University PhD student Kate Salters discovered that HIV-positive women were far more likely to be diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lympohoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Kaposi’s sarcoma.

In the case of invasive cervical cancer, the diagnosis rate for women with HIV was 24 times higher than women who don’t have HIV, said SFU professor Robert Hogg, Salters’ supervisor on the study and a senior research scientist at the BC-CfE.

Hogg told Metro there were some common traits found among the diagnosed women that leads researchers to believe more effective treatment could cut down on rates.

For example, a significant portion of the women with HIV that were also diagnosed with cancer had lapses in their HIV treatment the year before.

“Most of them were people who had not adhered to their therapy and were not able to maintain a low viral load,” he said. “There needs to be more awareness of the elevated risk and the importance of remaining on therapy to reduce some of those cancers related to HIV/AIDS.”

The women also tended to be older, which Hogg said was good news since, with the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), HIV patients are living longer, healthier lives despite the emerging health challenges.

The study involved 2,211 women who were at risk of developing cancer after HAART initiation.

Hogg said the next step in the study is to follow-up with a larger cohort of women.