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Background To clarify which types of cancer result from AIDS, we compared the cancer experiences of people with AIDS with those of the general population by matching population-based cancer and AIDS registries in the USA and Puerto Rico.Methods We used a probabilistic matching algorithm to compare names, birth dates, and, where available, social-security numbers of 98 336 people with AIDS and 1125 098 people with cancer aged less than 70 years. We defined AIDS-related cancers as those with both significantly raised incidence post-AIDS and increasing prevalence from 5 years pre-AIDS to 2 years post-AIDS.Findings Among people with AIDS, we found 7028 cases of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), 1793 of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), and 712 other cases of histologically defined cancer. Incidence rates among people with AIDS were increased 310-fold for KS, 113-fold for NHL, and 1.9-fold (95% CI 1.5-2.3) for other cancers. Of 38 malignant disorders other than KS and NHL, only angiosarcoma (36.7-fold), Hodgkin's disease (7.6-fold), multiple myeloma (4.5-fold), brain cancer (3.5-fold), and seminoma (2.9-fold) were raised and increasing significantly (p<0.02) from the pre-AIDS to the post-AIDS period.Interpretation Interpretation is complicated by screening and shared risk factors, such as sexual behaviour and cigarette smoking.However, our data indicate that AIDS leads to a significantly increased risk of Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma, brain cancer, and seminoma. Immunological failure to control herpes or other viral infections may contribute to these malignant diseases.