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Diagnoses of anal cancer among African American men, coupled with incidences of elderly women, account for the rise in the rate of new anal cancer cases and deaths from the disease, researchers said Tuesday.

While the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that about 6,530 people are diagnosed with anal cancer each year, more Black men get HPV-associated anal cancer than men of other races.

Anal cancer develops when malignant cells form in the tissues of the anus. The most common type of anal cancer — squamous cell carcinoma of the anus — rose 2.7 percent per year over a recent 15-year period, while anal cancer mortality rates increased 3.1 percent per year during that time, according to research.

“The rates are increasing very rapidly,” Ashish Deshmukh, an assistant professor at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston, said in a statement. “It’s concerning. Traditionally, our perception of anal cancer has been that it’s one of the rarest forms of cancer and because of that, it’s neglected.”

For the study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers analyzed data in U.S. cancer registries from 2001 through 2015. They also looked at causes of death from a database compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics over that time. They found 68,809 cases of anal cancer and 12,111 deaths from the disease.

Some of the disease’s startling statistics state that the risk of developing anal cancer was five times higher for Black men born in the mid-1980s compared to those born in the mid-1940s. That may be because young Black men are disproportionately affected by HIV, which raises the risk for developing the cancer, Deshmukh said.

The risk also doubled among White men and White women born after 1960, with the disease perhaps becoming the leading human papillomavirus-linked cancer in elderly women, the study noted. One possible reason: Older people have weaker immune systems, impairing their ability to clear HPV from their bodies, and elderly women outnumber elderly men.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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