NYU Langone doctors are experts at identifying and managing several types of Kaposi sarcoma. This condition develops in endothelial cells, which line blood vessels and lymph vessels. Lymph vessels carry fluid absorbed from organs and tissues, along with infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body, making them an important part of the immune system.
Cancerous endothelial cells can spread to the skin or mucosa, the tissue that lines the inner surfaces of the body, such as the mouth, throat, and digestive tract, where they form tumors. Tumors can also form in the lungs or the lymph nodes, small glands that produce and store lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that help fight infection.
Kaposi sarcoma is caused by human herpesvirus 8, also known as Kaposi sarcoma–associated herpesvirus. This virus infects the epithelial cells, causing them to divide uncontrollably. Although most people’s immune systems can destroy the virus, those with a weakened immune system due to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) or other forms of immunosuppression are more susceptible to infection.
NYU Langone doctors are experts at identifying the four main subtypes of Kaposi sarcoma.
AIDS-Related Kaposi Sarcoma
AIDS-related Kaposi Sarcoma is the most common type of Kaposi sarcoma diagnosed in the United States. It occurs in people who are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
HIV weakens the immune system by destroying infection-fighting white blood cells. Over time, as the virus multiplies and spreads throughout the body, it can destroy enough cells that the body is not able to fight off infections, including human herpesvirus 8. When the body is no longer able to fight off infections, HIV progresses to AIDS.
Treatment with antiretroviral therapy has helped reduce the number of people who develop Kaposi sarcoma.
Transplant-Related Kaposi Sarcoma
Having an organ transplant can make people more susceptible to infection with human herpesvirus 8 and Kaposi sarcoma. This is because the medications given to prevent the body from rejecting the transplanted organ suppress the immune system.
Classic Kaposi Sarcoma
Classic Kaposi sarcoma develops in people older than age 60 who are of Mediterranean, Eastern European, or Middle Eastern descent.
Lesions tend to appear on the legs, ankles, and soles of the feet, but they do not grow as quickly as lesions associated with the other types of this cancer. Men are more likely to develop this form of sarcoma than women.
Endemic African Kaposi Sarcoma
Infection with Kaposi sarcoma–associated herpesvirus 8 is more common among people living in sub-Saharan Africa. This may be because malaria or malnutrition, which are widespread in this part of the world, can lead to a weakened immune system. Endemic African Kaposi sarcoma can be more aggressive than other subtypes and is more likely to occur in people younger than age 40.
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