Anal cancer rates have increased over the past 15 years according to a team from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Their research, which was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, reported that anal cancer diagnoses and deaths from anal cancer have more than doubled for individuals in their 50’s and 60’s.
Perhaps even more alarming is that they found “new diagnoses among black men born after the mid-1980s increased five-fold compared to those born in the mid-1940s.”
The researchers from UT looked at restrospective data from all of the cancer registries in the United States and found “68,809 cases of anal cancer and 12,111 deaths from 2001 to 2016.” Alarmingly, they found that the cases of anal cancer increased 3 percent each year.
It is estimated that 90 percent of anal cancer cases are caused by Human Papilloma virus (HPV), a virus that is preventable by getting vaccinated. HPV is the same virus that causes many cases of cervical cancer in women.
Currently, anal cancer screening is recommended only for high-risk groups (i.e. men who have sex with men, particularly HIV positive MSM), though given new data regarding the rapid increase of anal cancers, it is likely that screening will need to be expanded to include others as well.
In our office, we perform anal pap screenings to screen for anal cancer. If your anal Pap smear is abnormal, we are one of the few offices in Atlanta who perform high-resolution anoscopies to evaluate this further.
If you have not done so already, speak with your provider to determine if you are a good candidate for the Gardasil HPV vaccination. Gardasil is a two-shot series from those ages 9 to 15, and a three-shot series for those 16 to 45. Most insurances cover the vaccination up to age 26, but given the FDA’s recent extension of the recommended age from 26 to 45, we expect more insurances to start covering this vaccination in the near future.
Make an appointment with one of our providers to discuss your risks and learn what steps you can take to prevent anal cancer.
Jeremiah Robinson is a licensed and certified Physician Assistant at T. Douglas Gurley MD in Atlanta, GA.