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.