Exposing Anal Cancer
When thinking about cancer, many people react with fear, confusion, sadness, and anger. Anal cancer can provoke all of these thoughts, along with additional feelings of embarrassment, uneasiness, and a sense of stigma. As a result, the conversation about anal cancer is hidden in a place where the sun doesn’t shine.
Now, it’s time to shed our anxieties (and our pants) to face anal cancer head on.
Tackling anal cancer is a natural fit for The National LGBT Cancer Network: while the incidence is relatively rare in the general population (about 1 in 500) it is up to 34x more prevalent in men who have sex with men, and increasing annually. While there is little confirmed data on transgender people, it is highly likely that those who engage in anal sex with men are also at a much greater risk for the disease.
- The majority of anal cancer cases are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV)
- HPV can be transmitted through both protected and unprotected anal intercourse and skin-to-skin contact, including manual stimulation
- HIV-positive men and transgender people with a history of anal intercourse are at the greatest risk for developing anal cancer; risk factors also include being a transplant recipient, a weakened immune system, smoking, and age
A growing number of physicians and health activists recommend that all men and transgender people who have anal sex with men, especially those who are HIV+, be screened every 1-3 years depending on their immunological well-being and CD4 count. They suggest that HIV negative individuals be screened every 3 years.
This work is important, because most people know little about anal cancer, have never been screened for it, and don’t know that screening tests exist.
You can help us change that!