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Anal cancer

Anal cancer develops from squamous epithelial cells similar to cancer in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract. Treatment of anal cancer differs from colorectal cancer.

Anal cancer also includes:

  • perianal cancer or anal margin – develops from basal epithelial cells in the skin approximately 5 cm around the anal verge
  • giant condyloma acuminatum (Buschke Löwenstein tumor) – occurs as large tumors in the perineum  

The anal canal is 3-4  cm long and approximately 1 cm shorter in women than in men. It stretches from the anal verge to about 1 cm above the dentate line, which is the transition from cylindrical epithelial cells in the rectum to squamous epithelial cells in the anal canal.


Compared to other cancers, anal cancer is rare and represents only 0.5% of all new cancer cases in the United States. Anal cancer is slightly more common in women than men and is most frequently diagnosed among people aged 55-64.

The number of cases of anal cancer diagnosed each year has been increasing over the last 10 years. In 2017, it is estimated to be 8,200 new cases of anal cancer in the United States (2).

Giant condyloma acuminatum is very rare; there are less than 100 cases reported in the literature. This type of tumor occurs most commonly around the age of 40 and is two to three times more common in men than in women.


Age-specific incidence of cancer in the anal canal, 2010–2014.

Source: National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, USA



Incidence of cancer in the anal canal, 1975–2014.

Source: National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, USA

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