Cancer patients have a 40% higher risk of developing shingles
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Cancer patients have a 40% higher risk of developing shingles

Patients with hematological tumors had a 3x higher risk of shingles.

Patients diagnosed with cancer of any kind have an approximately 40% higher risk for developing shingles than patients without cancer, researchers found.

The risk for herpes zoster was three-fold higher in patients with hematological cancers compared with patients without cancer, and it was 30% higher in patients with solid tumors, according to Jiahui Qian, MPH, a postgraduate student at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues.

“Previous studies have reported zoster among cancer patients following chemotherapy. However, there are few studies that attempt to separate the risk associated with the cancer itself from the receipt of cancer treatment, particularly chemotherapy,” Qian and colleagues wrote in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

According to study findings, 20,286 new cancer diagnoses and 16,350 zoster events occurred over 1,760,481 person-years — or over 8 years — of follow-up and 241,497 patients were included in the study. Qian and colleagues observed higher relative risks for zoster among participants with hematological (adjusted HR = 3.74; 95% CI, 3.11–4.51) and solid cancer (aHR = 1.3; 95% CI, 1.21–1.40) compared with those without cancer.

Moreover, the researchers also reported observing an elevated zoster risk 1 to 2 years before a diagnosis of hematological cancer when compared with those without cancer (aHR = 2.01; 95% CI, 1.31–3.09), though the same risk was not seen among patients with solid organ cancers (aHR = 0.90; 95% CI, .75–1.07). There was a higher observed zoster risk associated with chemotherapy in sold cancer patients (aHR = 1.83; 95% CI, 1.60–2.09) compared with those who did not receive chemotherapy (aHR = 1.16; 95% CI, 1.06-1.26).

Kawai K and Yawn BP. J Infect Dis. 2018;doi:10.1093/infdis/jiy626.
Qian J, et al. J Infect Dis. 2018;doi:10.1093/infdis/jiy625.
December 18, 2018

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