Head and neck cancers have been described in patients with human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) infection. However the incidence, aetiology and clinical features of the disease remain unclear.
Patients with head and neck cancer and HIV were identified from a large HIV centre. The incidence and clinical features were recorded, and the tumours were stained for Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
Head and neckcancer occurred more frequently than in an age-matched control group (1.66 vs 0.55/10,000 patient years respectively p < 0.05). Highly active anti-retroviral therapy has not significantly altered the incidence of the disease. All of the tumours tested were positive for EBV. Patients were moderately immunosuppressed at diagnosis and had aggressive tumours. All but one of the patients died of cancer with a median survival of 28 months.
Head and neck cancer occurs more frequently in HIV. It is an aggressive disease and EBV may play a role in its pathogenesis.