Anal cancer cases have been increasing over several decades. Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) is the major risk factor for anal cancer. Explore the links on this page to learn more about anal cancer prevention, treatment, statistics, research, and clinical trials.

Anal Cancer Treatment

General Information About Anal Cancer

  • Anal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the anus.
  • Most anal cancers are related to human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
  • Signs of anal cancer include bleeding from the anus or rectum or a lump near the anus.
  • Tests that examine the rectum and anus are used to diagnose anal cancer.
  • Certain factors affect the prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

Anal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the anus.

The anus is the end of the large intestine, below the rectum, through which stool (solid waste) leaves the body. The anus is formed partly from the outer skin layers of the body and partly from the intestine. Two ring-like muscles, called sphincter muscles, open and close the anal opening and let stool pass out of the body. The anal canal, the part of the anus between the rectum and the anal opening, is about 1-1½ inches long. The skin around the outside of the anus is called the perianal area. Tumors of the perianal skin that do not involve the anal sphincter are usually treated the same as anal cancers, although local therapy (treatment directed to a limited area of skin) may be used for some.

These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by anal cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Bleeding from the anus or rectum.
  • A lump near the anus.
  • Pain or pressure in the area around the anus.
  • Itching or discharge from the anus.
  • A change in bowel habits.

Anal Cancer Prevention

Caner pcrevention is action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer. By preventing cancer, the number of new cases of cancer in a group or population is lowered. Hopefully, this will lower the number of deaths caused by cancer.

To prevent new cancers from starting, scientists look at risk factors and protective factors. Anything that increases your chance of developing cancer is called a cancer risk factor; anything that decreases your chance of developing cancer is called a cancer protective factor.

Some risk factors for cancer can be avoided, but many cannot. For example, both smoking and inheriting certain genes are risk factors for some types of cancer, but only smoking can be avoided. Regular exercise and a healthy diet may be protective factors for some types of cancer. Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may lower your risk but it does not mean that you will not get cancer.

Different ways to prevent cancer are being studied, including:

  • Changing lifestyle or eating habits.
  • Avoiding things known to cause cancer.
  • Taking medicines to treat a precancerous condition or to keep cancer from starting.

In the United States, the most common type of anal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. Studies show that human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the main cause of this type of anal cancer.

Another type of anal cancer, called anal adenocarcinoma, is very rare and is not discussed in this summary.

Anal Cancer Prevention

  • Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent cancer.
  • The following are risk factors for anal cancer:
    • Anal HPV infection
    • Certain medical conditions
      • History of cervical, vaginal, or vulvar cancer
      • HIV infection/AIDS
      • Immunosuppression
    • Certain sexual practices
    • Cigarette smoking
  • The following protective factor decreases the risk of anal cancer:
    • HPV vaccine
  • It is not clear if the following protective factor decreases the risk of anal cancer:
    • Condom use
  • Cancer prevention clinical trials are used to study ways to prevent cancer.
  • New ways to prevent anal cancer are being studied in clinical trials.

Avoiding cancer risk factors may help prevent certain cancers. Risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise. Increasing protective factors such as quitting smoking and exercising may also help prevent some cancers. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional about how you might lower your risk of cancer.


What is Cancer?

  • Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

  • Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the risk of getting cancer. This can include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances, and taking medicines or vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing.

  • Cancer can cause many different symptoms. Most often these symptoms are not caused by cancer, but by benign tumors or other problems. If you have symptoms that last for a couple of weeks, your doctor will do a physical exam and order tests or other procedures to find out what is causing your symptoms.