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HPV-Linked Anal, Throat Cancers on the Rise

Update Date: Jul 25, 2014 04:03 PM EDT

A new study found that even though the incidence rate of cervical cancer has fallen in the United States over the past few years, the rates of other cancers tied to the human papillomavirus (HPV) have been growing. The researchers reported that anal and throat cancers linked to HPV have risen, especially in men and women younger than 45-years-old.

"The increases in the incidence of oropharyngeal [throat] cancer among younger men and of anal cancer among younger women are disturbing, because there are no screening programs for early detection of these cancers," said study co-author Dr. Lorraine Shack, an assistant professor of oncology at the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine according to Medical Xpress.

According to the background information provided by the study, HPV can be linked to an estimated 5.2 percent of all cancers throughout the world. In this study, the team examined data taken from the Alberta Cancer Registry. They focused on the trends of HPV-associated cancers that were diagnosed from 1975 to 2009. There were a total of 8,120 cases with 56 percent of them being cervical cancers and 18 percent being oropharyngeal cancers.

The researchers found that the majority of the cases were seen in people between the ages of 55 and 74. However, the greatest spike in oropharyngeal cancers was seen in men younger than 45. The incidence rate of anal cancer also increased. Anal cancer linked to HPV increased from 0.7 to 1.5 per 100,000 women.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends boys and girls starting at the ages of 11 or 12 to get vaccinated. The HPV vaccine, which comes in three doses, can protect against some of the more fatal strains of the virus. The Alberta Cancer Registry had publicly funded a HPV vaccine program for girls back in 2008. It plans on extending that funding to boys as well.

"To have a large impact on the prevention of these HPV-associated cancers, vaccination programs should be considered for males as well as females, as has now been done in Alberta," said Dr. Harold Lau, a clinical associate professor of oncology at the University of Calgary and co-author of the study. "Both oropharyngeal and anal cancers are associated with substantial side effects when treated; therefore, education and prevention programs, including the HPV vaccination program, are urgently required."

The study was published in CMAJ Open.

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