Researchers reported on Tuesday, that the United States is seeing a “dramatic and concerning” rise in the rate of new cases involving anal cancer, especially among young black men and elderly women.
The disturbing increase is associated with the human Papilloma Virus, which in turn causes HPV infections that in almost 90% of individuals infected are unaware they’ve been infected because they show no symptoms. Moreover, within about 2-years the virus dissipates within the body, causing no additional concerns.
However, a strain of the HPV virus can cause anal cancer in adults, the most susceptible to the disease being black men and elderly women.
Researches discovered that within a 15-year period, the most common type of anal cancer rose 2.7%, while anal cancer mortality rates increased 3.1% per year during that same 15 year span.
The rapid mortality rate is considered one of the fastest accelerating causes of cancer incidence in the U.S. Assistant Professor and lead author of the study Ashish Deshmukh, residing at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston, stated; “The rates are increasing very rapidly,” Deshmukh told the “Today” show. “It’s concerning. Traditionally, our perception of anal cancer has been that it’s one of the rarest forms of cancer and because of that, it’s neglected.”
Professor Deshmukh referenced Actress Farrah Fawcett who tragically succumbed to the disease in 2009, at 62. Fawcett after being diagnosed with the disease, became a public advocate, profiling the seldom talked about disease up until her final days, informing the public to be vigilant.
Deshmukh continued where Fawcett left off informing the public saying, “Among some of the startling statistics: The risk of developing anal cancer was five times higher for black men born in the mid-1980s compared to those born in the mid-1940s. That may be because young black men are disproportionately affected by HIV, which raises the risk for developing the cancer”
The research also indicates the risk of contracting anal cancer doubles among white men and women born after 1960. The report also suggests that the disease may surpass cervical cancer to become the leading human Papilloma Virus-linked cancer in elderly women.
The conclusion reached by the study regarding older women is that their immune system is weaker, thus they’re unable to fight off the HPV Virus invading their bodies.
“It’s really hard to understand what might be causing the rise in incidence and mortality,” he added. Possible reasons include riskier sexual behavior in recent decades and the rise in obesity rates, which could be a factor, he said.
The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers analyzed data in U.S. cancer registries from 2001 through 2015, found 68,809 cases of anal cancer and 12,111 deaths from the disease.
Perhaps the most surprising data within the study was that almost three-quarters of American adults don’t know HPV causes the disease.
So what is anal cancer?
The disease develops when malignant cells form in the tissues of the anus. Currently, around 6,500 individuals within the United States are diagnosed with anal cancer each year, with an astounding 91% believed to be from HPV.
Prevention may be as simple as reducing risky sexual encounters. However, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. with over a 90% cure rate.
Moreover here are some additional risk factors, besides being infected with HPV.
- Having many sexual partners
- Having anal sex
- Being over 50
- Experiencing frequent anal redness, swelling, and soreness
- Having anal fistulas (abnormal openings)