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Date of last update: 10/18/2017.

Forum Name: Dermatology Topics

Question: shingles and cancer

 queenbee - Thu Jan 01, 2009 8:59 am

My husband had a episode of shingles for the first time early in November. He is 60 and has been in excellent health. We have started a business and he has been working 12 and 14 hour days for 6 and 7 days a week this past year. He has been tired but that seems pretty realistic for the hours and time he has been pouring into the business. He also has lost some weight, but that also seems realistic with all the activity. When he went to the Dr. and discovered it was shingles, he was given two courses of acyclovir which he completed just before Christmas. He told me yesterday that the dermatologist wants him to go and be checked out because shingles is typically the first symptom of cancer especially leukemia. I just need some straight talk - is it typically the first symtom of cancer? I can deal with almost anything if I have some straight this a real possibility or a precautious Dr?
 Debbie Miller, RN - Mon Jan 05, 2009 3:52 pm

User avatar Hello,
The link between cancer and shingles is kind of the other way around. A patient with cancer has a greater likelihood of getting it because the immune system is inadequate. In this way the doctor may be saying it could be a clue to undiagnosed cancer and it might warrant a complete exam to determine that your husband is in good health otherwise and that this is not a complication of latent chronic infection or disease. It's always a good idea to investigate possible causes of something like this.

Many people in your husband's age range suffer from shingles, which is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus lays dormant in a person's body who had chickenpox; then it is activated at some time when the immune system is taxed. This could be due to stress, immune suppression such as cancer treatments, HIV infection, chronic disease, lupus, etc. Sometimes there is no apparent aggravating event at all and it's just luck of the draw. I suspect the doctor is just being cautious and covering all the bases in case it is something more.

Best wishes to you both.

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