Anal Cancer: Top 10 Questions Answered
2. How common is it?
It’s rare, accounting for only 1%-2% of gastrointestinal cancers; about 4,000-5,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and about half are women, says Zev Wainberg, M.D., a researcher at Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2008, nearly 700 adults died from anal cancer.
According to the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, 85% of cases are Caucasians. And most patients – as with most cancers – are diagnosed in their 60s. Fawcett was diagnosed in 2006, three years before her death.
3. Is it related to colon cancer?
Not really: What they do have in common, though, is that they’re both diseases of the large intestine. But colon cancer is much more common than anal cancer, and its causes are better known.
Another important difference: “Genetics can be a risk factor for colon cancer but not anal cancer, whose risk factors mostly stem from lifestyle,” Dr. Wainberg says.
4. Does anal sex increase my risk?
Yes, and so does vaginal sex if you have multiple sexual partners because both increase your chances of contracting HPV, says Ginger Gardner, M.D., a gynecologic cancer surgeon at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
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