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HPV Blamed for Rising Rates of Anal Cancer

HPV Blamed for Rising Rates of Anal Cancer

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 20, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Anal cancer rates have surged in the past 15 years, and the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) may be to blame, a new study suggests.

“What was very shocking to us was that the rate and incidence of anal cancer has increased very fast,” said lead researcher Ashish Deshmukh. He’s an assistant professor in the department of health services research, management and policy at UTHealth School of Public Health, in Houston.

Overall, anal cancer rates and deaths are increasing nearly 3% per year, making it one of the fastest-rising cancers, he added.

Some groups are being hit harder than others.

Anal cancer cases and deaths from the disease have more than doubled for people in their 50s and 60s. And anal cancer rates among black men born after the mid-1980s has increased five times, compared with black men born in the mid-1940s, the researchers found.

Also, the diagnosis of late-stage anal cancer has increased 7% per year, which Deshmukh said is very troubling because survival rates, once the cancer has spread, are very low.

Conversely, if anal cancer is caught early, the five-year survival is close to 70%, he noted.

HPV is preventable with a vaccine. Ideally, the two doses of vaccine are given to boys and girls before the age of 15 or three doses if vaccination starts at ages 16 through 26.

However, 50% of Americans who are eligible are not vaccinated, which could lead to a wave of new infections and an increase in anal cancer rates in the coming decades.

Deshmukh said that HPV vaccine should not be called a vaccine to prevent a sexually transmitted disease, but a vaccine to prevent cancer.

Anal cancer is not on most people’s radar, even though it caused the death of actress Farrah Fawcett in 2009. The illness has also been diagnosed in former “Desperate Housewives” star Marcia Cross, whose husband also developed throat cancer linked to HPV.

Anal cancer develops at the end of the gastrointestinal tract. It’s not like colon or rectal cancer because of its location and because it involves different cells than those cancers.

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