Kaposi’s sarcoma

Also known as:

  • KS


There are further sub-types depending on the exact cause:

  • Epidemic or AIDS related Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • Endemic or African Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • Classic Kaposis’s sarcoma
  • Acquired or transplant Kaposi’s sarcoma

What is Kaposi’s sarcoma?

Kaposi’s sarcoma is unusual because it is always associated with a virus called HHV-8 (human herpesvirus-8). HHV-8 is frequently spread through sexual contact and needles used for injecting drugs. When this virus infects cells it inserts its genetic material into the human DNA in ways that can lead to cancer. Whilst many people have the HHV-8 virus (up to 10% of a population) it requires additional factors such as immunosuppressive drugs after a transplant, or the presence of the HIV (AIDS) virus to allow it to develop into a cancer.

Kaposi’s sarcoma is a cancer that affects the walls of blood vessels leading to red/brown/purple marks on the skin and sometimes produces lesions in the lungs or liver.

How rare Kaposi’s sarcoma cancer?

Overall the rate of Kaposi’s sarcoma in the UK is 0.18 cases per 100,000 people, but this does not reflect the rate in vulnerable populations where it will be higher.

Who does Kaposi’s sarcoma affect?

Kaposi’s sarcoma can affect anyone who has been infected with the HHV-8 virus. Not all people with HHV-8 will develop cancer, but it is associated with also having a weakened immune system.

Some populations are more likely to develop Kaposi’s sarcoma with no further triggers, such as older European men and young Africans.

The virus can be passed on during a transplant or the need for immunosuppressive drugs to protect the transplant can increase the chance of HHV-8 leading to cancer if it is present.

Kaposi’s sarcoma also affects people who have both the HHV-8 virus and the HIV (AIDS) virus as HIV damages the immune system.

Why is RareCan interested in Kaposi’s sarcoma?

RareCan is working to accelerate research into Kaposi’s sarcoma by making it easier for researchers to connect with people who have it. You can help us do this by becoming a RareCan member and sharing information with us about your Kaposi’s sarcoma diagnosis. We will then get in touch with you about any research opportunities that might be suitable for you.

Looking for a different cancer type?

Please visit our ‘rare cancer list’ to search for your cancer type 

Useful links

If you are looking for further support with Kaposi’s sarcoma we recommend the following websites:

Sarcoma UK

Sarcoma UK

Sarcoma UK is a charity for those with bone and soft tissue sarcoma diagnoses including Kaposi’s sarcoma. They provide information on all types of sarcomas and have a patient support line to help assist with any queries and worries.