The death of Farrah Fawcett on June 25 received some media attention before being overshadowed by that of Michael Jackson. In some ways, it's just like her disease process: anal cancer is frequently overshadowed by other cancers, but not for good reason. Some may be uncomfortable discussing the cancer due to its location, but the discussion should be had because many cases of anal cancer may be preventable.
As the name implies, anal cancer involves the anus, which is the terminal opening of the digestive tract. What isn't widely pointed out is that anal cancer is strongly associated with human papilloma virus, also known as HPV. HPV is transmitted sexually and is also to blame for most cases of cervical cancer. We currently have a vaccine against many strains of HPV marketed under the name Gardasil, but currently it's only indicated for girls and young women for the prevention of cervical cancer.
However, by preventing infection with HPV, the vaccine could reduce the incidence of anal cancer as well. So if you or someone you know qualifies for but is uncertain about the HPV vaccine, keep in mind that it may prevent more than just cervical cancer.