The British journal of general practice : the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners vol:55 issue:511 pages:102-7
BACKGROUND: It has been suggested that herpes zoster may be a marker for occult malignancy. AIM: To examine the emergence of a subsequent cancer diagnosis in patients with and without herpes zoster. DESIGN OF STUDY: Retrospective cohort study. SETTING: Results were based on the database of Intego, an ongoing Belgian general practice-based morbidity registry, covering 37 general practitioners and including about 311 000 patient years between the years 1994 and 2000. METHOD: Survival analysis comparing the emergence of malignancy in patients with and without herpes zoster. RESULTS: The number of patients below the age of 65 years with herpes zoster, cancer or both was too low to draw any sensible conclusions. Above the age of 65 years we identified a significant increase of cancer emergence in the whole group and in females (hazard ratio = 2.65, 95% confidence interval = 1.43 to 4.90), but not in males. No difference could be identified in the first year after the herpes zoster infection. CONCLUSION: Our results do not justify extensive testing for cancer in herpes zoster patients. The association we identified, however, leaves open a number of questions with respect to the physiopathology behind it.