Kaposi’s Sarcoma

A skin cancer, characterized by raised, pinkish-brown lesions, that is most often associated with AIDS

  • More common in males
  • Unprotected sex with multiple partners and intravenous drug use are risk factors in AIDS-related cases
  • Age and genetics as risk factors depend on the cause

Kaposi’s sarcoma used to be a very rare condition, appearing mainly in older men of Mediterranean or Jewish origin. It developed slowly and rarely spread. However, a more rapidly developing form now occurs increasingly in people with AIDS (see HIV infection and AIDS). In these cases, it is associated with infection by a herpes virus.

The lesions of Kaposi’s sarcoma can occur anywhere on the skin. In AIDS-related cases, the lesions spread quickly; in severe cases, they may affect mucous membranes, especially of the palate and internal organs. Internal lesions can cause severe bleeding.

Kaposi’s sarcoma can be treated effectively with radiotherapy. If the cancer is advanced, chemotherapy may be needed. The cancer is seldom the main cause of death in people with AIDS, although it may be fatal when the internal organs are affected. Treating the underlying HIV infection is therefore also important.

Kaposi’s sarcoma

Sharply defined, pinkish-brown raised nodules and flat patches are the first signs of Kaposi’s sarcoma. They may develop anywhere on the body.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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