People living with HIV not only have a higher rate of cancer compared with the general population but also are less likely to be treated for those malignancies. Recognizing this threat to the health and longevity of those living with HIV, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has issued new guidelines on treating cancer among them.

An estimated 7,760 HIV-positive U.S. residents were diagnosed with cancer in 2010. This figure represents a diagnosis rate that is 50 percent higher than that of the general population.

The most commonly diagnosed cancers among people with HIV in order of frequency include non–Hodgkin lymphoma, Kaposi sarcoma (KS), lung cancer, anal cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer, colorectal cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma, oral and pharyngeal cancer, female breast cancer and cervical cancer.

The new NCCN cancer treatment guidelines for HIV-positive individuals stress the importance of collaborative care between HIV specialists and oncologists.

“One major take-home point of this guideline is that cancer treatment recommendations should not be based on HIV status alone,” says Gita Suneja, MD, an associate professor in radiation oncology and global health at Duke Global Health Institute in Durham, North Carolina, and the cochair of the NCCN guidelines panel for cancer in the HIV population.

Although modifications to treatment may be needed to minimize interactions with HIV therapies, cancer treatment is generally safe and effective in people with HIV. When determining whether there are any potential drug-drug interactions between antiretroviral therapy for the virus and cancer treatments, oncologists and HIV specialists should work together, partnering with pharmacists who specialize in these fields if possible.