'Often Neglected' Cancer Is on the Rise

Rates of anal cancer, as well as deaths from it, increased over 15-year period, researchers say
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2019 1:00 PM CST
Updated Nov 24, 2019 10:01 AM CST
Cancer That Plagued a 'Housewife' Is on the Rise
Marcia Cross is seen at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on April 25, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif.   (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

The cancer that struck a Desperate Housewives star and killed Farrah Fawcett is on the rise, and certain demographics seem especially vulnerable. CNN reports on a new study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that discovered rates of anal cancer—specifically, squamous cell carcinoma in that region—increased 2.7% per year from 2001 to 2015, while death rates from this type of cancer rose 3.1% per year from 2001 to 2016. There were "pronounced increases" in cases affecting people ages 50 and older, as well as an uptick among young black men. The human papillomavirus, or HPV, causes more than 90% of anal cancer cases. The study's lead author, Ashish Deshmukh, says these findings are "very concerning," mainly because people don't really talk about anal cancer.

"Given the historical perception that anal cancer is rare, it is often neglected," he notes. The stigma also keeps the disease out of water-cooler talk, though some have been trying to combat that. One high-profile name who's been candid about her diagnosis: Desperate Housewives actress Marcia Cross, who's now in remission. "I found myself in a position where nobody wants this job," she said last week at a cancer event in New York City, per People. "Nobody wants to come forward. And I knew that people were suffering and people were ashamed." NBC News details symptoms, including bleeding from the anus or rectum; a lump, pain, or pressure near the anus; itching or discharge; and a change in one's bowel movements. Early detection is key: The five-year survival rate for patients whose anal cancer hasn't spread is upward of 80%; if it has spread, that stat plummets to 30%. (Cross said her cancer was linked to her husband's.)

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