Study Warns that Anal Cancer Mortality Rates on Notable Rise in the US

Anal cancer deaths have grown more than 3 percent per year between 2001 and 2016, according to a new study. On top of that, the most common form of anal cancer has also increased another 3 percent every year.  Moreover, anal cancer-related deaths have more than doubled. 

Specifically—but without context—the study notes that older adults and young black men saw the largest such increases. 

This data, alone, is enough to have concern but many recent studies advise that one major risk factor for anal cancer is Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is also a major risk factor for cervical cancer and oral cancer, as well as a host of other health conditions.  Unfortunately, not many people understand the relationship between HPV and cancer, particularly anal cancer. 

Lead study author Ashish Deshmuck, PhD, advises that more than 75 percent of adults in the United States are not even aware that HPV causes preventable cancer.  As concerning as this is, it is imperative that we develop new educational campaigns that can help to increase awareness regarding the rising rates of anal cancer and, more importantly, getting the appropriate immunizations.

Again, the data shows that anal cancer diagnoses have risen at a rate of almost 3 percent every year.  Furthermore, when comparing demographic data including race and ethnicity, age, and biological sex, the researchers also found the risk increased five fold among black males born in the mid-1940s.  The risk was also double for white males and females born prior to 1960.

Deshmukh goes on to say, “Given the historical perception that anal cancer is rare, it is often neglected.”  

As such, they add, “Our findings of the dramatic rise in incidence among black millennials and white [females], rising rates of distant stage disease, and increases in anal cancer mortality rates are very concerning.”

Lead study author Dr. Keith Sigel, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, in New York City, also notes that anal cancer screenings are not very common.  It is only a standard procedure among certain high risk patient groups.  This all suggests, then, that it may be time to evaluate if broader screening efforts should be pursued in the medical community.