Risk factors are the inherited or acquired factors that increase the chance of developing cancer in a person. Several epidemiological studies have suggested a number of genetic and environmental factors that may predispose to anal cancer. A knowledge about them helps us to make necessary lifestyle choices.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the single most important risk factor which is found associated with almost 85 to 95% of the cases of anal cancer. Although the incidence of HPV infection is very common, only a few cases progress to pre-cancerous anal lesions or invasive anal cancer. HPV is a group of about 150 DNA viruses, with high-risk subtypes including HPV-16 and HPV-18, reported in about 75% and 10% of all the cases of anal cancer, respectively. HPV consists of two proteins known as E6 and E7 which inactivate some tumor suppressor genes and lead to anal cancer.
Following is a list of other anal cancer risk factors:
Consumption of diet low in fruits and vegetables, in utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), history of a sexually transmitted disease, and chlamydial infection are other reported risk factors for anal cancer.
Apart from the above-listed risk factors, certain factors which can reduce the risk of anal cancer have also been reported. Such protective factors mainly include the use of intrauterine devices for birth control and HPV vaccination. Also quitting smoking may be helpful.
In the next section, you will read about the symptoms of anal cancer.
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