Smokers with HIV more at risk of lung cancer than AIDS: Study

Boston: People living with HIV who adhere to antiretroviral therapy but smoke cigarettes are 10 times more likely to die from lung cancer than from AIDS, a study led by an Indian-origin scientist warns.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the US found that smoking and HIV together put people at risk of developing lung cancer at a rate even higher than that among smokers not infected with HIV.

They found that nearly 25 per cent of people who adhere well to anti-HIV medications but continue to smoke will die from lung cancer.

Among smokers who quit at age 40, only about six per cent will die of lung cancer. They also found that people with HIV who take antiviral medicines but who also smoke are from six to 13 times more likely to die from lung cancer than from HIV/AIDS, depending on the intensity of smoking and their sex.

“Heavy smokers are at even higher risk for lung cancer, with risks of lung cancer death approaching 30 per cent,” researchers said.

When the researchers focused on people who do not perfectly follow recommended HIV treatment – and who are thus at greater risk of dying from HIV/AIDS – lung cancer was still estimated to kill more than 15 per cent of smokers, they said.

“Smoking and HIV are a particularly bad combination when it comes to lung cancer,” said Krishna Reddy, from Massachusetts General Hospital.

Using a computer simulation model of HIV, researchers estimated the risk of lung cancer among people living with HIV in the US based on whether they are current, former, or have never smoked.

How many cigarettes per day they smoke – or smoked for former smokers – and whether they consistently take antiviral medications.

They also accounted for the risks of other diseases, like heart disease, that are increased by smoking.