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Yes, it can. In fact, human papillomavirus (HPV) is believed to be the most common cause of anal cancer, with approximately 90% of anal cancer cases being linked to an HPV infection. Although most HPV infections will not develop into anal cancer, having had an HPV infection means you have a greater likelihood of developing the malignancy. Other risk factors for developing anal cancer include:

  • Being over age 50
  • Having another type of cancer (such as penile, cervical, vaginal or vulvar cancer)
  • Having a weakened immune system (whether due to having HIV, taking certain medications or another reason)
  • Regularly experiencing anal abnormalities (such as fistulas, soreness, swelling and redness)
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Engaging in receptive anal sexual activity
  • Smoking

Notably, individuals with none of these risk factors can still develop anal cancer.

What is HPV?

The term “HPV” refers to a collection of more than 150 different viruses, and the one that’s most likely to cause anal cancer is Type 16. HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with an infected body part, typically during sexual activity, and once an infection occurs, it may spread from one area of the body to another (for example, from the genitals to the anus).

There is an HPV vaccine available that can help protect you from this virus. Although it’s commonly given to adolescents, adults can also receive it. If you’re interested in getting vaccinated against HPV, reach out to your primary care physician—he or she will be able to let you know whether the vaccination is appropriate for you.

Anal cancer treatment at Moffitt

If you have anal cancer symptoms or suspect you may have anal cancer, turn to the team of specialists in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Program. Contact us to request an appointment—you can do so by calling 1-888-663-3488 or completing a new patient registration form online.