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Shedding Light on Anal Cancer

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In all the discussion about Farrah Fawcett’s cancer, most people shied away from mentioning its origin and those who did neglected to delve further into its causes. It has become taboo to talk about anal cancer because — in most cases — it alludes to anal sex and/or STDs around the anus.

However, with incidences of anal cancer steadily on the rise, it is absolutely necessary to educate people on the causes so that they can protect themselves from some of the aggravating factors that lead to the illness.

As mentioned in an earlier article by Turi McNamee, HPV is a major culprit in anal cancer. Similarly, the American Cancer Society cites anal warts caused by HPV (mainly HPV-16) as being responsible for most cases. Other lesser causes are infection with HIV and smoking, both of which are linked to an increased chance of developing anal cancer.

There are several ways to decrease your chances of developing anal cancer. The American Cancer Society notes that the Gardasil vaccination protects against the main type of warts that is cancer-causing (HPV-16) and two other subtypes (HPV-6 and HPV-11) that are linked to anal cancer. While the vaccine is only currently used to prevent certain types of cervical cancer and genital warts, protection against these strains keeps them away from both the genital and anal regions. Using a condom during anal sex or avoiding it completely is also advised as HPV can be spread through skin-to-skin contact and not just through bodily fluids.

And, of course, quitting smoking reduces your risk of developing anal cancer and a plethora of other cancers and health problems. Most cases of anal cancer develop later on in life — in people aged 60 and older — and it affects women slightly more often than men. Each year, more than 5,000 people will be diagnosed with anal cancer. To decrease your chances of becoming one of these people, knowing the causes and reducing your exposure to these risks is the best way to protect yourself.

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

My husband has recurring bladder cancer. During sex with me, he prefers frotteurism, usually very close to my vagina and towards my anal area. Could any cancer cells come from his penis to me during this sexual behaviour?

June 29, 2009 - 1:30pm
EmpowHER Guest

Poorly written. Every phrase represented by initials should be defined the first time it is used, followed by the initials. You should never assume people know what the initials refer to without telling them!

June 28, 2009 - 10:25am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

While in many cases you would be correct, AP style (which dictates journalisic writing) does not call for common abbreviations to be written out first. The three abbreviaions you are referring to: HIV, STD and HPV are all considered the proper use without clarification. Also, as this is a health Web site, it is understood. However, for you or anyone else who may not know these abbreviations...
STD = sexually transmitted disease
HIV = human immunodeficiency virus
HPV = human papilloma virus

June 28, 2009 - 12:19pm

I didn't even know until recently that anal cancer is typically caused by HPV, and I don't think I'm alone. I've blogged on this issue on other sites and it's amazing how many women have no idea that you can contract HPV in your mouth and throat (which can lead to throat cancer) from having oral sex.

June 27, 2009 - 10:10pm
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