Anal Cancer Causes
Causes of anal cancer vary but often share in common that they first weaken a person’s immune system. One cause in particular, human papillomavirus (HPV), is very closely linked to anal cancer. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, HPV causes approximately 95 percent of anal cancers, which generally affect the tissue lining the anus, made up of squamous epithelial cells. These types of cells are present all over the body: skin, mouth, throat, and genitals. HPV infects these types of cells, and repeated infections caused by high-risk subtypes of HPV can eventually cause abnormal cell growth. If abnormal cells continue to grow and spread, they form tumors that can eventually become malignant. The HPV that causes most cases of anal cancer is HPV type 16.
Other factors that increase an individual’s risk for anal cancer include:
- Engaging in high-risk sexual practices (receiving anal sex or having many sexual partners)
- Having a history of cervical/vulvar/vaginal cancer
- Being positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Using tobacco products