Cancer of the anus is not a homosexual curse, nor is it an unusual occurrence, experts are informing.
Gynae oncologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Dr Matthew Taylor, said that cancer can develop on any part of the body, including the anus, but it is not necessarily linked to one’s sexual practices.
“The important thing to remember is that anal cancer is one of the human papillomavirus (HPV). The big one that we know about is cervical cancer and how it affects a great portion of the population. Then you have the other ones like the vaginal cancer, vulval cancer (outside of the vagina), anal cancer, and pharyngeal cancer. All these areas can be affected by the HPV virus,” Dr Taylor told a Gleaner Editors’ Forum last week at the media house’s North Street, Kingston, office.
HIGHER CERVICAL CANCER RATES
He said cervical cancer has a much higher incidence. Because of the nature of the cervix, it has a greater propensity to develop the disease from the HPV virus.
“If you look at developing countries, the incidence of anal cancer and pharyngeal cancer is increasing, particularly among men. There is an association with sexual practices, so oral sex is associated with pharyngeal cancer, and anal sex is associated with anal cancer. But remember, you don’t have to be having that type of sex to have that type of cancer,” Dr Taylor stressed.
HPV is a viral infection that is passed between persons through skin-to-skin contact. There are more than 100 varieties of HPV, 40 of which are passed through sexual contact and can affect the genitals, mouth or throat.
“If you have HPV in the vagina, the vagina is near to the anus. In a man, the penis is further away from the anus, and that is why in Jamaica, you actually see a higher incidence of anal cancer among women,” explained Dr Taylor, who is also director for the Jamaica Cancer Society.
He said that sexually transmitted diseases can be contracted from vaginal sex as well as oral sex, and it was possible that between 18 and 19 per cent of the population has the virus without their knowledge.
However, he said that not everyone will develop cancer as a result of the virus, and screening and vaccinations should be encouraged as a way of early detection and treatment.
PERCENTAGE PER POPULATION
Citing the International Association of Research into Cancers, 2017, which looks at HPV-related cancers, Taylor said that figures released for Jamaica showed that:
– 28 per 100,000 women had cervical cancer.
– Anal cancer – 0.4 per cent for males and 0.9 per cent for females.
– Vulval cancer – 0.5 per cent
– Vaginal cancer – 0.2 per cent.
– Penile cancer – 1.2 per cent.
– Throat cancer – 0.5 for males and 0.3 for females.
Data was not available to show how popular, or even if anal Pap smear, which is done to detect early signs of cancer, was done in Jamaica.
Persons in the high-risk group for getting anal cancer include:
– Cigarette smokers.
– Men who have sex with men.
– Individuals with a history of immune-suppression (such as in HIV infection).
– Women with a history of cervical, vaginal, and vulval cancer.
Vaccination against HPV before initial sexual exposure can reduce the risk of anal cancer.