Anal Cancer

There is more good that can come from the HPV vaccine

By Rick Bartell

Rick Bartell

In the January Issue of “In Good Health” I wrote about the current campaign to get as many people as possible to get the HPV vaccine, which has been linked to the prevention of cervical cancer in women.

I reported the dramatic decreases in cervical cancers that are expected over the next generation due to the vaccine. I received a wonderful email from a reader thanking “In Good Health” for highlighting this important issue but pointing out to me that cervical cancer is indeed on the decline here in the United States but unfortunately anal cancers are on the rise and the HPV vaccine could go a long way in prevented these cancers too.

Upon further research, I discovered that since the 1970s the rates of people diagnosed with anal cancer has tripled in the United States. The major risk factor for this type of cancer is infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). It is estimated that about 85 percent of all anal cancer cases are a result of HPV infection. Other risk factors for anal cancer include men having sex with men, multiple sexual partners, and cigarette smoking.

The reader went on to point out to me that “screening to prevent anal cancer has been available in Rochester for 12 years, yet many health providers are unaware. Patients are particularly dismayed, and when they develop anal cancer frequently ask why they were never told of this possibility, even though they may have been diagnosed with cervical dysplasia. Anal cancer is another one of the diseases that can be prevented by the HPV vaccine. Thanks for providing exposure for a necessary vaccine.”

So it seems there is an additional reason for getting those eligible for the HPV vaccine to take advantage of it.

Ask your health care provider about it as well as asking about important anal cancer screenings for those at highest risk. This just might be another cancer that a future generation might consider a thing of the past.

Rick Bartell has worked for over 23 years in the area of sexual health education. He currently acts a consult to a number of area nonprofits. You may contact him at with any questions or ideas for future columns.

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