A research team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has quantified the effects of an infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) on the development of cervical cancer. Their results show that the risk of developing cervical cancer is six times higher in women who are infected with HIV. Southern and Eastern Africa are particularly affected.
According to WHO statistics, cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer for women. In 2018 an estimated 570,000 women worldwide were diagnosed with cervical carcinoma, with approximately 311,000 of these women dying.
On the other hand cervical cancer, usually caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV), is also one of the most successfully preventable and treatable types of cancer, as long as it is detected at an early stage and treated effectively.
Cervical cancer is at the same time the most frequently detected cancer for women who live with HIV, since their immune systems are weakened by the HIV infection.
The TUM School of Medicine’s Center for Global Health and the Chair of Epidemiology at the TUM Department of Sport and Health Sciences have now dedicated their efforts to this relevant topic in the publication “Estimates of the Global Burden of Cervical Cancer Associated with HIV”, published in the renowned journal The Lancet Global Health.
Systematic review and meta-analysis of 24 studies
The lead authors Dr. Dominik Stelzle (Center for Global Health and Chair of Epidemiology) and Dr. Luana Tanaka (Chair of Epidemiology) conducted a systematic review as well as a meta-analysis of a total of 24 studies from the years 1981 to 2016, in which 236,127 women with HIV from four continents (Africa, North America, Asia and Europe) participated.
These studies covered a total of 2,138 cervical carcinoma cases. The results were linked with data from UNAIDS on worldwide HIV infection and with data on cervical carcinoma from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO’s Cancer Research Center, and then evaluated.
“Until now there have only been estimates from countries with high net income levels,” says Dr. Stelzle. “That’s why we looked at the figures on global incidence of cervical carcinoma in connection with an HIV infection and included estimates for countries with low net incomes. In most parts of the world the numbers are under five percent. In some countries however we’re talking about well over 40 percent of cases.”