The researchers of the University of Texas have observed a worrying rise in the incidence of anal cancer and associated deaths in the United States over the past 15 years.
In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, scientists recorded roughly 69,000 cases of anal cancer over the period covered. The number of related deaths for the same period was more than 12,000.
Observation revealed that the disorder was more common among younger black men and older individuals.
Anal cancer is not the same as colorectal cancer – it is somewhat more similar to cervical cancer. It occurs at the end of the gastrointestinal tract, with human papillomavirus (HPV) being responsible for the vast majority of cases.
The disease is considered a rare one and so tends to receive less attention. However, findings from this study show the need to take it more seriously.
“Our findings of the dramatic rise in incidence among black millennials and white women, rising rates of distant-stage disease, and increases in anal cancer mortality rates are very concerning,” said lead study author Ashish A. Deshmukh, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) School of Public Health at Houston.
A distant-stage anal cancer diagnosis means the malignancy has spread to other body parts. When this happens, survival rates drop rapidly.
Rising cases and deaths
Researchers evaluated data from all cancer registries in America for the period between 2001 and 2016 in this study. They identified 68,809 anal cancer cases and 12,111 deaths.
Incidence of squamous cell carcinoma of the anus, a type of anal cancer linked to HPV, climbed by 2.7 percent each year during this period. Distant-stage cases of the disorder tripled among men and rose by 7.5 percent among women.
At the same time, deaths related to anal cancer increased by almost 3 percent a year. The mortality rates more than doubled for older persons in their 50s and 60s.
Cases of anal cancer surged five-fold among black men born in the mid-1980s onward, compared to those that were given birth to in the mid-1940s.
This study was the first to evaluate and classify the current national trends of this type of anal cancer by year of birth, stage at diagnosis, and mortality, according to MedicalXpress.
Explaining the rise
HPV is a common infection in the U.S., with about 79 million people affected. It does not refer to a single virus, but rather to a group of numerous related viruses. People mostly become infected through sexual contact, including kissing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV causes roughly 35,000 anal cancer cases every year. But most people only know the virus to be responsible for genital warts.
It is possible to hold off the disease through vaccination against HPV. Many people in the U.S., however, have failed to receive the available vaccine. This makes such individuals susceptible to infections that may result in cancer.
For kids, the CDC recommends that the first HPV vaccine dose should be received between the ages of 11 and 12 years. The second dose is to be given up to a year after the first one.
People who are not vaccinated before the age of 16 years will need a three-dose regimen, instead of two. This second option can be accessed up to the age of 26 years. NB the FDA recently approved Gardasil to be used by men and women up to the age of 45!
Identifying anal cancer
This disorder bears some similarities to certain other health issues, which means that there is potential for confusion. It could be mistaken for anal fissures, hemorrhoids, or any other similar problems. However, it is essential to have an idea of what signs to look for if you have not been HPV-vaccinated or have been exposed to the virus.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), possible symptoms of anal cancer include rectal itching, bleeding, and stool narrowing. Anal lump, changes in bowel movements, and abnormal discharge, including mucus or pus, from the anus, are among other signs.
However, experts say it is not everyone who has this disorder that will notice any of these symptoms. An estimate has it that up to 20 percent of patients do not show any symptoms at all.
Julian Sanchez, MD, told Prevention that an evaluation by a doctor is critical to know whether anal cancer or non-cancerous issues are responsible for any observed symptoms.
Researchers in the current study stated that their findings revealed the need to consider broader screening for anal cancer. Currently, screening is available to high-risk groups, including those infected with HPV and people living with HIV.
Deshmukh stressed the need to educate people more about anal cancers and the importance of HPV vaccination.
“It is concerning that over 75% of U.S. adults do not know that HPV causes this preventable cancer,” he said.
Anal Cancer Deaths Are Rising In the U.S.—Here’s How to Spot the Symptoms (https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/anal-cancer-deaths-rising-u-220900926.html)
Anal cancer rates and mortality have risen dramatically among Americans: study (https://www.medicalxpress.com/news/2019-11-anal-cancer-mortality-risen-americans.html)