Anal cancer in women

Many readers will probably be aware that actress and model Farrah Fawcett died in 2009 of anal cancer. But a recent update from Cancer Research UK revealed that anal cancer rates in the UK have increased by nearly 300% over the last 40 years. The increase is much higher in women than in men, rising from 4 in a million to 18 in a million for females (4 to 12 in a million in males). Presumably, similar increases are seen elsewhere in other countries.

Experts believe the reason for the dramatic rise is likely to be caused by the increasing prevalence of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that is usually transmitted through sexual activity. An estimated 90 per cent of anal cancer cases in the UK are linked to HPV infection.

Now, this is a mixed taboo subject, cancer, sex, disease, bumholes etc. Perhaps not a topic for the family dinner table, but certainly one that should be broached more readily. If shifting sexual practices are largely to blame, then sexually active people ought to know more about HPV and the fact that it can cause cancer of any entry point in the body.

anal-cancer

A recent tweet from @RealMissChief today remarked on a tattoo a female displayed on her lower back that she saw in a bar. The tattoo was actually of stars but RMC wittily interpreted this to mean “I do butt stuff”. Maybe the tattooee does or doesn’t we will never know, but either way we can but hope that she uses protection if she does that kind of “butt stuf”, or at the very least knows her partners’ HPV status. This anecdote does offer a putative tabloid scare story about how getting a tat on your lower back could lead to anal cancer. But, while it might be flippant to suggest such a thing, perhaps the increasing proclivity for such body art simply correlates with general shifting attitudes towards sex at a time when HPV is prevalent. The numbers are small but worryingly on the increase…

Anal cancer rates quadrupled since mid 70s.

Anal cancer in women is a post from the science blog of David Bradley, author of Deceived Wisdom

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