Kaposi's sarcoma [key], a usually fatal cancer that was considered rare until its appearance in AIDS patients. First described by an Austro-Hungarian physician, Moritz Kaposi, in 1872, it appears in three forms and is characterized by vascular skin tumors. Kaposi's sarcoma is endemic in Africa, where it is more aggressive, seen in children and young men, and accounts for 10% of malignancies in Congo (Kinshasa) and Uganda. A mild form of the disease is sometimes seen in elderly men of Mediterranean origin. The development of AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma has been linked to a virus of the herpes group. In the early 1980s it was seen in nearly 50% of AIDS patients, but the proportion has decreased since that time. In AIDS, Kaposi's presents as barely raised pink or red papules or plaques that become widely disseminated on the skin and in the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, where they may cause extensive bleeding. Treatment includes chemotherapy or surgical excision, cryosurgury (destruction by freezing), or electrodessication (destruction by heat). Local radiation therapy can also be effective. AIDS patients are treated with Vinblastine, an active, but weak, agent, which further lowers immunity.
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