Risk of cancer diagnosis after herpes zoster (shingles)

25th June 2014 by NASGP

Risk of cancer diagnosis after herpes zoster (shingles)

We know that shingles occurs more commonly in cancer patients. It has been postulated that the risk of a cancer diagnosis after zoster may also be increased. This large UK-based primary care study has shed some light on this (BJC 2013;108:721). They compared cancer risk in patients with a diagnosis of shingles to matched controls and found:

  • Patients with a diagnosis of zoster were more than twice as likely to develop cancer in the following years than matched controls (HR 2.42, CI 2.21-2.66).
  • Median time to cancer diagnosis was 815 days.
  • Hazard ratios were more significant for younger patients, e.g. aged 18-50y (HR 6.57, CI 4.18-10.41).

The authors do not advocate routinely investigating all patients with zoster. Instead, they suggest considering it as an additional risk factor which should perhaps lower our threshold for further investigation.

Read for free

Sign up to access everything.

Free trial


Already a member? Login to view this content.


"Work as GP locum provides me both flexibility and autonomy together with great job satisfaction. However, there are some complexities one needs to address in starting out and doing everything right.

I've generally found answers to any issues I've had on the NASGP website – an excellent repository of very relevant information. The blog and magazines alone are almost worth the small costs of membership. The fact that NASGP is run by motivated fellow GPs gives me confidence in their guidance and advice.

LocumDeck makes my running things as a self-employed GP almost effortless - I don't think I would want to work without it. Invoicing is streamlined and the website is very user-friendly. After a busy week at work, the last thing you want is to spend hours on business admin. LocumDeck is a real timesaver.

Dr James O’Mahony

See the full list of features within our NASGP membership plans