People with HIV are at higher risk of developing cancer and with more than six million people living with HIV in the country, South Africa faces the threat of an HIV-related cancer epidemic. South Africa and Africa can expect an increase in certain HIV-related cancers, said US George Washington University Prof Sylvia Silver said during a recent Cape Town talk. South Africa’s high HIV prevalence is already reflected in its cancer statistics. In 2000, the country had 849 cases ofKaposi sarcoma, a type of cancer in which tumours can emerge under the skin, and other areas of the body such as the mouth, nose and organs.

People living with HIV are several thousand times more likely than uninfected people to be diagnosed with Kaposi sarcoma and at least 70 times more likely to be diagnosed with the cancer,non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which affects the body’s immune system. Both cancers, as well as the cervical cancer, are considered “AIDS-defining cancers,” meaning their diagnosis in HIV-positive people means that their HIV infection has progressed to AIDS.

Emerging research is also showing that other cancers, like anal, liver and lung cancers are also more likely to develop in people living with HIV. Kaposi sarcoma, cervical and lung cancer, as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma are among the 10 most common cancers in South Africa.

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