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Shingles Not Linked to Increased Cancer Risk, Study States

MONDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- People with herpes zoster, commonly known as shingles, are not at greater risk for cancer, according to a new Taiwanese study.

In background information in the report, the researchers said the question of whether there was an increased risk of cancer after shingles diagnosis was "controversial."

In their study, published in the Sept. 17 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the authors concluded that extensive cancer screening is unnecessary once people are diagnosed with shingles.

The condition usually starts with pain, itching or tingling on one side of the face or body, which is followed by a rash. It is caused when the same virus that causes chickenpox remains in the body and reactivates years later, in the form of shingles, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"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," said study author Dr. Yi-Tsung Lin and colleagues in the infectious diseases division at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.

The study involved nearly 36,000 people in Taiwan who recently had been diagnosed with shingles. After taking their other illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, into account, no increased risk of cancer was found in these patients, the study authors noted in a journal news release.

"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," the study authors concluded.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about shingles.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), news release, Sept. 17, 2012

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