Can anal cancer be prevented?
Since some people with anal cancer have no known risk factors, there is no way to prevent this disease completely. But there are things you can do that might lower your risk of anal cancer.
Sex and condom use
The best way to reduce the risk of anal cancer is to avoid HIV and HPV infection. The risk of infection is higher for those who have sex with many partners and those who have unprotected anal sex. People can have HPV for years without having any symptoms. So it can be nearly impossible to know whether a sex partner is infected with HPV.
Condoms can help protect against HPV (and HIV), but they don’t prevent infection completely. That is because HPV can be spread by skin contact from areas that are not covered by the condom. Still, it is important to use condoms to help protect against AIDS and other diseases that can be passed on through some body fluids.
Two vaccines – Gardasil® and Cervarix® – can help protect against infection with HPV. While they are used mainly to help prevent cervical cancer, they might also help prevent some other cancers, including anal cancer. To work best, these vaccines should be given before a person starts having sex. For more about HPV vaccines, see HPV Vaccines.
In people infected with HIV, the use of highly active antiretroviral treatment (also called HAART) can help keep the infection from progressing to AIDS. This lowers the risk of long-term HPV infection, which might help lower the risk of anal cancer.
Stopping smoking lowers the risk of many types of cancer, including anal cancer.
Last Medical Review: 06/10/2014
Last Revised: 06/26/2014