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Anal Sex and Colorectal Cancer

Jul 25, 2000

I heard from someone that if you engage in anal sex then you are at risk to develop colorectal cancer. Is this true?

Response from Mr. Kull

Anal sex in and of itself probably does not cause anal cancer. What might lead to rectal cancer is an HPV/genital wart infection in the rectum/anus. Certain strains of HPV are more closely linked to cancers than others. HPV in the rectum/anus is more likely to lead to anal cancer if the warts go untreated.

There is a higher incidence of rectal warts among gay men who have unprotected receptive anal sex than the general population. Gay men who have had unprotected receptive anal sex or anal-penile contact should be screened for HPV. Screening can be conducted with an anal pap smear (swab) and/or anoscopy. HIV-positive persons with rectal warts are probably more prone to anal cancer than HIV-negative persons.

There is no evidence that semen in the anus/rectum causes cancer.


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