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Anal cancer rise in gay men prompts calls for vaccinations

by Peter Saunders, CMF

The BMA has called for the HPV immunisation programme to be widened to include gay men, in an effort to tackle ‘alarming’ rates of HPV-related disease.

[...] Here are some facts.

Anal cancer is rare in the general population but its incidence is on the rise for homosexual men.

In the United Kingdom, about 1,100 people are diagnosed with anal cancer each year.

The survival prospects depend very much on the stage at diagnosis but overall 25-40% of people diagnosed with anal cancer will die within five years.

Sexual activity, especially with multiple sex partners, is a recognised risk factor due to the increased risk of exposure to the HPV virus.

Receptive anal intercourse, whether male or female, increases the chances of anal cancer sevenfold due to HPV.

Those who engage in anal intercourse with multiple partners are 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than those who don't, if their insertive partners are infected with the HPV virus.

The incidence of anal cancer is also ten times higher in the HIV-positive population than in the female population in general.

A 2012 review reports that human papillomavirus 16 (HPV16) is causally associated with approximately 70% of anal cancers and this cancer is markedly increasing among homosexual men.

Based on a study in Denmark and Sweden it is estimated that 90% of anal cancers are attributable to HPV, as HPV types other than HPV16 are also involved.

About 35 in every 100,000 homosexual men develop anal cancer, compared to less than one in every 100,000 heterosexual men.

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