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Anal cancer risk factors

Although the causes of anal cancer are still being investigated, certain factors that may increase an individual's risk of developing the disease have been identified. These factors include chronic infection with high-risk types of human papilloma virus, gender and age.

cancer risks

Anal cancer risk factors

Some common risk factors of anal cancer include:

  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection: Chronic infection with high-risk types of HPV can lead to anal cancer. An estimated 86-97 percent of anal cancer cases are caused by HPV, with HPV-16 responsible for vast majority of cases. The HPV vaccine may be able to prevent this cancer in the future. Read about the recent increase in HPV-related cancers.
  • HIV infection: People with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, are more likely to get anal cancer.
  • A history of receptive anal intercourse: Men and women, especially those younger than 30, have a higher risk of anal cancer if they’ve had receptive anal intercourse.
  • A history of cervical, vulvar or vaginal cancer: These cancers also are caused by HPV infection.
  • Lowered immunity: Those with reduced immunity have a higher risk of anal cancer. For example, people who have had an organ transplant and take medicines to suppress their immune system.
  • Chronic local inflammation: Those with anal fistulas or open wounds that last a long time have a slightly higher risk for anal cancer.
  • Age: Two-thirds of anal cancer cases occur in people older than 55.
  • Smoking: Those who smoke have a significantly higher risk of anal cancer. This risk greatly decreases when smokers quit.
  • Race and gender: Incidence of anal cancer is higher among African Americans, particularly men, than whites. In general, anal cancer is more common in women than men.

Learning about cancer

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. It is named for the organ or type of cell in which it starts growing.

Understanding risk factors

Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer. Not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss it with your doctor.

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