The Molecules of HIV

Note: this site last updated in 2006

Can cause tumours

An article from "The Molecules of HIV" (c) Dan Stowell

HIV-positive people can develop tumours - in particular, certain cancers called B-cell lymphoma, Kaposi's sarcoma, and cervical cancer. There are two main mechanisms by which HIV can lead to cancer:

  • The suppression of the immune system that occurs as a result of HIV infection can allow a cancer-causing virus to seize the moment and have its way, unchecked. The Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), the Kaposi's Sarcoma-associated Herpes Virus (KSHV) and the Human T-cell Leukaemia/lymphoma Virus (HTLV) are examples of viruses which can normally be kept at bay by the immune system, but which can become free to cause tumours in HIV patients.
  • HIV can activate a cancer-causing gene (an oncogene) in a human cell's own DNA.

Notice that in neither case is the HIV virus "directly" causing cancer.

Written by
Dan Stowell

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