Cancer, along with other diseases that affect the immune system, is believed to be a potential cause of herpes zoster, or shingles. Additionally, there was a recent that found that patients who developed shingles were at a slightly greater risk of getting cancer later in life. This article will detail the correlations between shingles and cancer; additionally, the shingles treatment options for those with cancer will be discussed.

Shingles and Cancer – The Link

Common cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation treatment, weaken the immune system. A weakened immune system makes the body more susceptible to a number of viruses, including the shingles virus, which is also commonly known as the vermicelli zoster virus.

Cancer and Stress

Stress is another common precursor to a shingles outbreak, and because cancer is such a stressful thing to deal with, the risk that cancer patients will acquire shingles is elevated (related reading: shingles and stress).

Treating Shingles in Cancer Patients

By and large, practitioners treat shingles in cancer patients in a manner similar to the way they treat other patients (related reading: shingles treatment). That being said, a more cautious approach may be necessary in some cases. Antiviral drugs — the most common treatment for shingles — are still usually prescribed to cancer patients. However, in some cases, these drugs may be administered intravenously, which can help lower the risk of complications.

The Risk of Developing Cancer Later

A study in 2004, concluded upon 10,588 patients with shingles, found that patients who experienced a shingles outbreak were slightly more susceptible to cancer at a later point in their lives. 1,427 cases of cancer were reported over the 7+ year course of the study, which is 1.2% higher than the mean cancer-rate that would be expected among the general population.

Additionally, it was found that patients were even more susceptible to getting cancer during the first year following their diagnosis (1.8% more likely). It’s worth noting, however, that it’s possible that the increased risk of cancer among shingles patients was due to the fact that shingles often weakens the immune system, and a weakened immune system can elevate the chances of developing cancer.


There is undoubtedly a correlation between shingles and cancer, primarily because it can lead to an outbreak of the disease. Additionally, it does appear that patients who develop shingles may be at an increased risk of getting cancer at some point, although this risk seems to be very slight.

Shingles and Cancer: Related topics: Shingles Treatment, Postherpetic Neuralgia Treatment, Shingles Pain Relief, Shingles FAQ.

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