About Kaposi's sarcoma
Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) is a type of cancer that usually affects the skin and mouth. KS can also affect organs inside the body such as the lungs, liver, stomach, bowel and lymph nodes (glands). It can appear in several parts of the body at the same time.
We hope this section answers your questions. If you have any further questions, you can ask your doctor or nurse at the hospital where you are having your treatment.
Causes of Kaposi's sarcoma
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The main cause of KS is a virus called human herpes virus 8 (HHV8), which is also known as Kaposi’s sarcoma herpes virus (KSHV). Most people who have this virus never get KS. But people with a weakened immune system who have the virus are more likely to develop KS.
Our immune system is made up of tissues and organs that work together to protect us against infections. Different conditions can cause a weakened immune system. The one most commonly linked with KS is HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the virus that can lead to Aids.
Types of Kaposi's sarcoma
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There are four main types of KS and they are all more common in men than in women.
Epidemic or Aids-related Kaposi's sarcoma
Epidemic KS is the most common of the four types. It’s associated with HIV infection, which can weaken a person’s immune system and increase their risk of getting KS if they also have HHV8.
KS is now less common in the UK because HIV is usually well controlled with treatment.
Classic Kaposi's sarcoma
Classic KS is rare. It’s more common in older men of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or Jewish descent.
This type of KS is normally only found in the skin, particularly on the lower legs and feet. It’s a slow-growing cancer. People with early classic KS may not need treatment.
Endemic or African Kaposi's sarcoma
Endemic KS is found in parts of Africa where HHV8 is more common. It develops more quickly than classic KS and can affect men, women and children of all ages, although it’s more common in men.
Acquired Kaposi's sarcoma (sometimes called transplant Kaposi's sarcoma)
Rarely, people who have a weakened or damaged immune system after an organ transplant develop acquired KS. This is because they need to take drugs that suppress their immune system (immunosuppressants) to reduce the risk of rejecting the donated organ.