Researchers examined trends in anal cancer over the past 15 years and identified approximately 69,000 anal cancer cases and over 12,000 deaths during this time.
"Our findings regarding the dramatic increase in morbidity among black millennia and white women, the growing proportion of distant diseases and the increase in mortality from anal cancer are very worrying," study lead author Ashish A. Deshmukh, assistant professor at UTHealth School of Public Health, said in a statement . "Given the historical belief that anal cancer is rare, it is often neglected."
Distant disease occurs when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
In the years 2001–2015 the number of cases of the most common anal cancer increased by 2.7% per year, while the number of deaths due to anal cancer increased by 3.1% per year in the years 2001–2016.
The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, "gives trend trends that seems to have occurred over the past decade," said Dr. Virginia Shaffer, colon surgeon and associate professor at Winship Cancer Institute Emory University. "In this sense, it gives us what we already expected." Shaffer was not involved in the study.
Anal cancer occurs where the gastrointestinal tract ends. It differs from colon or rectal cancer and is most similar to cervical cancer.
The most common subtype of anal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, caused by human papillomavirus, known as HPV.
Who is affected by anal cancer?
The study showed that anal cancer has increased significantly in people 50 years of age and older.
Anal cancer rates are also rising among young black men.
The study also showed that the number of cases in advanced stages is increasing. This may partly be due to an improvement in HIV treatment, said Shaffer, which means that patients live longer with a weakened immune system, and the cancer may have developed until it is diagnosed.
There is still a stigma around anal cancer.
"I know there are people who are ashamed," Cross said in June, "CBS This Morning." "You have cancer. You should also feel like then are you ashamed if you did something wrong because he lived in your anus? "
Anal cancer has become a "pretty taboo" – said Shaffer – "I think because of some risk factors that are known to be associated with it.
"If people have symptoms, they should see a doctor because I think a lot of people think," Oh, well, it's just hemorrhoids, "and they don't control, and that could potentially mean you won't be diagnosed until much, much later ".
To strengthen future prevention, Shaffer said that all people who qualify for vaccination should do so, and that current vaccine guidelines should be studied to determine if they can be extended to other patients.
Michael Nedelman, Lisa Respers France and Sandee LaMotte from CNN contributed to this report.