Immunodeficiency and Cancer in 3.5 Million People Living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus: the South African HIV Cancer Match Study

Yann Ruffieux, Mazvita Muchengeti, Matthias Egger, Orestis Efthimiou, Lina Bartels, Victor Olago, Maša Davidović, Tafadzwa Dhokotera, Julia Bohlius, Elvira Singh, Eliane Rohner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


BACKGROUND: We analysed associations between immunodeficiency and cancer incidence in a nationwide cohort of people living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in South Africa.

METHODS: We used data from the South African HIV Cancer Match study built on HIV-related laboratory measurements from the National Health Laboratory Services and cancer records from the National Cancer Registry. We evaluated associations between time-updated CD4 cell count and cancer incidence rates using Cox proportional hazards models. We reported adjusted hazard ratios (aHR) over a grid of CD4 values and estimated the aHR per 100 CD4 cells/µl decrease.

RESULTS: Of 3,532,266 people living with HIV (PLWH), 15,078 developed cancer. The most common cancers were cervical cancer (4,150 cases), Kaposi sarcoma (2,262 cases), and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (1,060 cases). The association between lower CD4 cell count and higher cancer incidence rates was strongest for conjunctival cancer (aHR per 100 CD4 cells/µl decrease: 1.46, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.38-1.54), Kaposi sarcoma (aHR 1.23, 95% CI 1.20-1.26), and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (aHR 1.18, 95% CI 1.14-1.22). Among infection-unrelated cancers, lower CD4 cell counts were associated with higher incidence rates of oesophageal cancer (aHR 1.06, 95 CI 1.00-1.11), but not breast, lung, or prostate cancer.

CONCLUSIONS: Lower CD4 cell counts were associated with an increased risk of developing various infection-related cancers among PLWH. Reducing HIV-induced immunodeficiency may be a potent cancer prevention strategy among PLWH in sub-Saharan Africa, a region heavily burdened by cancers attributable to infections.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Feb 2021

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