This research has revealed a significant increase in rates of anal cancer in high-income countries, including Australia, since the late 1980s, particularly in those aged under 60.
Around 480 people are predicted to be diagnosed with anal cancer in Australia in 2019. The risk of anal cancer is increased among men with a history of receptive anal intercourse, women with a history of cervical or vulvar cancer, and people with immune deficiency, including those who are infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and organ transplantation recipients.
This study builds on earlier research from Cancer Council NSW, which highlighted an increase in vulvar cancer rates in women in Australia and several other developed countries which was attributed to increased exposure to HPV.
The researchers compared anal cancer rates from 1988-1992 and 2008-2012 across seven countries – Australia, Canada, the USA, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and the UK. It was found that over that timeframe, anal cancer rates across all ages had risen by 35% in men and by 75% in women. However, increases were highest in those aged under 60, with rates up 77% in men and 131% in women.
It is recommended that parents have their children vaccinated when their 12-13 year-olds are offered the HPV vaccine. The vaccine protects against around 80% of anal cancers in addition to a range of other HPV-related cancers.
The rise in anal cancer rates can likely be attributed to changing sexual behaviours and increasing levels of exposure to Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection, which reinforces the importance of vaccination. The HPV vaccine is free to Australian girls and boys in their first year of high school through the National HPV Vaccination Program.
Dr Yoon-Jung Kang Dr Megan Smith
Professor Karen Canfell (pictured)