No Link Between Shingles And Cancer Risks

Cancer risks not affected by herpes zoster

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you’ve ever had shingles, you know what a painful ordeal it can be. Tiny blistering sores can take over your body, usually just on one side though. Having this condition doesn’t increase risks of more serious disease.

A recent study concludes that shingles – or herpes zoster – does not impact cancer risks.

"See your doctor right away if you suspect you have shingles."

A large study involving nearly 36,000 people with herpes zoster was conducted in Taiwan.

"We found no overall increased risk of cancer among patients with herpes zoster compared with the general population, regardless of sex, age or years of follow-up," the authors wrote.

Dr. Yi-Tsung Lin, an infectious disease specialist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan, led the study.

The same virus that causes chickenpox causes shingles. So once you have chickenpox, you’re more vulnerable to shingles.

The condition erupts when the inactive herpes virus reawakens.

People who have cancer more commonly develop shingles than folks who don’t have cancer. Because of this trend, some research has suggested a link.

For this study, the researchers included information about other conditions the participants had at the time. These co-morbidities included diabetes, chronic obstructive lung disease, autoimmune disease and heart disease.

"These findings suggest that the extensive investigations for occult cancer at the time of diagnosis of herpes zoster or enhanced surveillance for cancer after such a diagnosis is unnecessary," conclude the authors.

This study was published in the September issue of CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 27, 2012
Last Updated:
September 30, 2012