Background: Viral suppression is a primary marker of HIV treatment success. Persons with HIV are at increased risk for AIDS-defining cancer (ADC) and several types of non-AIDS-defining cancer (NADC), some of which are caused by oncogenic viruses.
Objective: To determine whether viral suppression is associated with decreased cancer risk.
Design: Prospective cohort.
Setting: Department of Veterans Affairs.
Participants: HIV-positive veterans (n = 42 441) and demographically matched uninfected veterans (n = 104 712) from 1999 to 2015.
Measurements: Standardized cancer incidence rates and Poisson regression rate ratios (RRs; HIV-positive vs. uninfected persons) by viral suppression status (unsuppressed: person-time with HIV RNA levels ≥500 copies/mL; early suppression: initial 2 years with HIV RNA levels <500 copies/mL; long-term suppression: person-time after early suppression with HIV RNA levels <500 copies/mL).
Results: Cancer incidence for HIV-positive versus uninfected persons was highest for unsuppressed persons (RR, 2.35 [95% CI, 2.19 to 2.51]), lower among persons with early suppression (RR, 1.99 [CI, 1.87 to 2.12]), and lowest among persons with long-term suppression (RR, 1.52 [CI, 1.44 to 1.61]). This trend was strongest for ADC (unsuppressed: RR, 22.73 [CI, 19.01 to 27.19]; early suppression: RR, 9.48 [CI, 7.78 to 11.55]; long-term suppression: RR, 2.22 [CI, 1.69 to 2.93]), much weaker for NADC caused by viruses (unsuppressed: RR, 3.82 [CI, 3.24 to 4.49]; early suppression: RR, 3.42 [CI, 2.95 to 3.97]; long-term suppression: RR, 3.17 [CI, 2.78 to 3.62]), and absent for NADC not caused by viruses.
Limitation: Lower viral suppression thresholds, duration of long-term suppression, and effects of CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell counts were not thoroughly evaluated.
Conclusion: Antiretroviral therapy resulting in long-term viral suppression may contribute to cancer prevention, to a greater degree for ADC than for NADC. Patients with long-term viral suppression still had excess cancer risk.
Primary funding source: National Cancer Institute and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health.