Skip Navigation
Men's Newsletter
October 8, 2012
In this Issue
• One-Third of Men With Anal Cancer Have HIV, Study Finds
• Eunuchs Lived Longer Than Other Men: Study

One-Third of Men With Anal Cancer Have HIV, Study Finds

Gay males among those at higher risk of the rare cancer, U.S. government researchers say

FRIDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- New research on anal cancer, a rare disease that's often caused by a sexually transmitted virus, found that nearly one-third of men with this form of cancer were HIV-positive.

Men infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are more likely to also become infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause both cervical and anal cancer.

The findings, published Oct. 5 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, point to the importance of screening HIV-positive men for anal cancer, said study co-author Dr. Eric Engels, a senior investigator with the U.S. National Cancer Institute. "In the United States, fewer than 1 percent of people have HIV infection. Yet when you look at anal cancer, 28 percent of all cases in men are in those who have HIV."

According to background information in the study, anal cancer is diagnosed in about 6,000 people a year in the United States, mostly women, and kills around 700. Early detection, however, can lower the risk of death.

The anal cancer rate has been rising in the United States since 1940, the study authors pointed out, and several groups -- gay men, those with multiple sexual partners over their lifetime, those who've had genital warts, and those who have anal intercourse -- are at highest risk.

In the new study, researchers examined medical records from several states from 1980 to 2005 and found, over the entire period, that an estimated 8 percent of 20,533 anal cancer patients were infected with HIV. From 2001 to 2005, they estimated that 1 percent of women and 28 percent of men with anal cancer were HIV-positive.

The study suggests that there's a link between HPV and HIV infection. HPV is estimated to cause about 85 percent of anal cancer cases, Engels said. The virus can cause cells to make genetic changes and become cancerous.

HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, such as sexual activity. But people don't need to be on the receiving end of anal sex to develop an infection in the anal area. A person could transmit the virus from another part of the body, such as the genitals, to the anus, Engels explained.

What to do? There is no treatment or cure for HPV, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, "if one could prevent anal cancer in men with HPV, it would have a noticeable impact on the overall national burden of anal cancer," Engels said.

One way to do that is to use Pap tests -- which detect cervical cancer in women -- to screen HIV-infected people for anal cancer. "There is debate about whether that will be an effective approach," he said. "It's something that's being looked at."

Another strategy is to give people the vaccine series that prevents HPV infection. Young women and girls are frequently vaccinated because HPV can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer, but the vaccination is not as common among young men and boys.

However, Engels said, "there haven't been definitive studies in people with HIV to know whether the HPV vaccine will prevent anal cancer."

Commenting on the study, Dr. Joel Palefsky, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said the findings make sense. He recommends anal cancer screening not only for HIV-positive gay men but for all gay men.

Anal Pap tests are appropriate for HIV-positive men and older gay men, although there aren't federal guidelines for gay men, and doctors may not get reimbursed for the procedures, Palefsky said. He also recommends that physicians perform so-called digital exams in the rectum to look for signs of anal cancer in gay men.

These examinations are commonly performed to look for signs of prostate cancer, but physicians may not focus on also detecting anal cancer, Palefsky added.

More information

For more about anal cancer, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Eunuchs Lived Longer Than Other Men: Study

Genealogy records from Korean dynasty show about 15 years of extended life span

MONDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Castrated men -- sometimes called eunuchs -- in the old Korean dynasty lived much longer than other men, according to a new study.

The findings suggest that male sex hormones such as testosterone may be one reason men tend to have shorter life spans than women, the researchers said.

The study was published Sept. 25 in the journal Current Biology.

The researchers studied genealogy records of noble members of the Imperial court of the Korean Chosun dynasty, which lasted from 1392 to 1910. The eunuchs lost their testicles in accidents -- usually after being bitten by dogs -- or underwent intentional castration to gain early access to the palace, according to a journal news release.

Eunuchs lived 14 to 19 years longer than other men. Of the 81 eunuchs included in the study, three lived to be 100 or older.

The incidence of centenarians among the eunuchs was at least 130 times greater than in developed countries, according to Kyung-Jin Min of Inha University and Cheol-Koo Lee of Korea University.

They said the extended life spans of eunuchs can't be explained simply by the benefits of life in the palace, because they spent as much time outside the palace as inside it. And although the study showed an association between being castrated and a longer life span, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers health tips for men.

Copyright © 2012 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.