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Most anal cancers are caused by an infection called human papillomavirus (HPV).

You can get HPV from:

  • any skin-to-skin contact of the genital area
  • vaginal, anal or oral sex
  • sharing sex toys

Anal cancer is rare. Most people affected by HPV will not develop cancer.

You may be more likely to get anal cancer if you:

  • have anal sex
  • are over the age of 75
  • smoke
  • have had cervical or vaginal cancer
  • have a weakened immune system, such as from HIV or an organ transplant

You cannot always prevent anal cancer. HPV vaccination is one of the best ways to protect against anal cancer.

All children aged 12 to 13 are offered the HPV vaccine. It helps protect against cancers caused by HPV, as well as genital warts.

There are also healthy changes you can make to lower your chances of getting anal cancer.


  • use a condom when having sex to lower your chances of getting HPV

  • keep sex toys clean and do not share them

  • try to quit smoking

It's important to get any symptoms of anal cancer checked by a GP.

Anyone can get anal cancer, even if you do not think you have a higher chance of getting it.