HIV-positive people are less likely to receive treatment for cancer than those who are not living with the virus, possibly helping explain a significant disparity between the two groups in cancer survival rates. Publishing their findings in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers conducted a retrospective study, the largest of its kind, in which they examined differences in treatment rates between 3,000 HIV-positive and over 1 million HIV-negative people who had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or cervical, lung, anal, prostate, colorectal or breast cancer between 1996 and 2010.

Among people who had early stage cancers with the highest chance of a cure following treatment, those with HIV were two to four times more likely to go without cancer treatment than those without HIV. And as for cases of lymphoma, lung cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer, having HIV meant double the likelihood of going untreated.

“The results of this study are very concerning and require further investigation to understand why such a substantial proportion of HIV-infected cancer patients are not undergoing lifesaving treatment,” the study’s lead author, Gita Suneja, MD, an adjunct assistant professor in the department of Radiation Oncology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a release. “As cancer becomes an increasingly common cause of death in the HIV population, the issue of cancer treatment in the HIV-infected cancer population will grow in importance.”

To read the press release, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.