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Am I At Risk for Anal Cancer?

There is no way to know for sure if you’re going to get anal cancer. Certain factors can make you more likely to get this type of cancer than another person. These are called risk factors. Just because you have one or more risk factors does not mean you will get anal cancer. In fact, you can have many risk factors and still not get the disease. On the other hand, you may have no known risk factors and still get anal cancer. Tell your doctor if any of the bolded statements apply to you.

I have human papillomavirus (HPV) or genital warts

Most doctors think that HPV causes squamous cell anal cancer. It is spread via skin-to-skin contact during sex. In men, circumcision (removal of the foreskin of your penis) decreases risk of contracting HPV. In women, early onset of sexual intercourse and having sex with uncircumcised men increase risk of HPV. 

I have had multiple sex partners

If you have had many sex partners, you are at higher risk for getting HPV. This virus has been linked to anal cancer. Additionally, women whose partners have had many sex partners are at an increased risk. 

I have anal intercourse (especially unprotected intercourse)

Having anal sex with a condom offers some protection against HPV, the virus that has been linked to anal cancer. But HPV can still be spread by skin-to-skin contact in the areas not covered by the condom.

I have a weakened immune system

If you have a weakened immune system, you are at higher risk for anal cancer. You may have a weakened immune system from taking drugs after an organ transplant, or if you are infected with the HIV.

I have had cancer of the cervix, vagina, or vulva

HPV causes these cancers and also increases your risk of anal cancer. 

I smoke

Smokers are more likely to get anal cancer than nonsmokers. Quitting smoking may reduce this risk.

I am over 50 years old

People older than 50 and younger than 80 are more likely to get anal cancer than people of other ages.

I have had repeated inflammation in the anal region

People who have chronic inflammation in the anus, from conditions, such as fistula, fissures, or perirectal abscesses, may have a higher risk of getting anal cancer.

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 1/2/2014
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.