Background: Cancer of the cervix is the second commonest malignancy in females worldwide and is the leading malignancy among women in Tanzania. Cancer of the cervix has been strongly associated with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is a sexually transmitted disease. However, the role of HIV-1 in the aetiology of cancer of the cervix is less clear. Studies suggest that HPV and HIV-1 infection are synergistic and therefore their dual occurrence may fuel increased incidence of cancer of the cervix and AIDS. We therefore conducted a study to determine the association between cancer of the cervix and HIV-1.
Methods: The study was carried out in Ocean Road Cancer Institute, Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania between January and March 2007. A hospital-based case control design was used to study 138 cases and 138 controls. The cases were consenting women 18 years and above with histologically confirmed squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix, while the controls were consenting non-cancer adult women attendants or visitors. The participants were counselled and tested for HIV-1 and interviewed to assess risk factors for cancer of the cervix and HIV-1. Estimation of risk was done by computing odds ratios and confidence intervals. Confounding and interaction between the factors were assessed using logistic regression.
Results: HIV-1 prevalence was much higher among the cases (21.0%) than among the controls (11.6%). In logistic regression, HIV-1 was associated with cancer of the cervix (OR = 2.9, 95% CI = 1.4-5.9). Among the cases the mean age was lower for HIV-1 infected (44.3 years) than HIV-1 uninfected women (54 years, p = 0.0001).
Conclusion: HIV-1 infection is associated with invasive cancer of the cervix. Resource-constrained countries with a high burden of HIV-1 and cervical cancer should adopt a high-risk approach that targets HIV-1 positive women for screening of cervical cancer initially by utilizing HIV/AIDS resources.