Virus Shows Up in Prostate Cancer

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A new study, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases (January 1, 2004), is the first to link human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) in the blood with prostate cancer. Earlier reports have tied HHV-8 to Kaposi?s sarcoma, a cancer typically seen in AIDS patients, and to a rare type of lymphoma.

The researchers studied 452 men in Tobago and Trinidad and 376 men from the United States. In the 2 groups, about a third of the men had prostate cancer and the remaining participants were cancerfree. The West Indies group showed nearly 40% of men with prostate cancer had HHV-8 in their blood, almost double the rate among men without cancer. In the US group, the researchers found the rate of HHV-8 infection among men with prostate cancer was 20%, nearly 15% higher than the rate among male blood donors and about 7% higher than the rate among men with non-HHV-8 related cancers.

Senior author Frank J. Jenkins, PhD, emphasized that "this does not mean that HHV-8 causes prostate cancer." Also, he added that previous studies looking for the virus in the prostate gland itself have produced conflicting results.