Reducing your risk for anal cancer

You may lower your risk of developing anal cancer by doing the following.

Get vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV infection is the main risk factor for anal cancer. The 3 HPV vaccines available in Canada are Gardasil, Gardasil 9 and Cervarix. These vaccines help protect against infection with HPV16 and HPV18, the 2 types of HPV most commonly associated with cancer. Gardasil 9 also protects against 5 other types of HPV that can cause cancer. Gardasil and Gardasil 9 are approved to help prevent precancerous conditions of the anus and anal cancer associated with HPV infection. Cervarix is not currently approved for this use.

Get vaccinated or have your children vaccinated through school-based programs where available. If you are not eligible for a free vaccination, talk to your doctor about which vaccine is right for you and when you should have it.

Practise safer sex

The only sure way to prevent HPV infection is to completely avoid any genital contact with another person. Anyone who has had sex is at risk for HPV.

Talk to your partner about sexually transmitted infection (STI) and using protection. Remember that the previous sexual behaviours of your partner are also a risk for you, especially if they have had multiple partners.

If you are sexually active, use a condom to help protect against HPV. Condoms or other barriers can reduce HPV infection if they are put on before skin-to-skin sexual contact. However, skin that isn’t covered is not protected from the virus.

Live smoke-free

Smoking tobacco increases the risk of precancerous conditions and cancer of the anus. If you smoke, get help to quit smoking.

Find out if you’re at high risk for anal cancer

Some people can have a higher than average risk for anal cancer. Talk to your doctor about your risk. If you are at higher than average risk, you may need to visit your doctor more often to check for anal cancer. Your doctor will recommend what tests you should have and how often you should have them.

More information about reducing your risk of cancer

Learn how cancer can be prevented and what you can do to reduce your risk.

Expert review and references

  • Czito BG, Ahmed S, Kalady M, et al . Cancer of the anal region. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 61:842-856.
  • Grulich AE, Jin F, Poynten IM . Anal cancer. Thun MJ (ed.). Schottenfeld and Fraumeni Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention. 4th ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 2018: 37:707-714.
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) . Volume 90: Human Papillomaviruses . 2007 :
  • Meyer JJ, Willett CG, Czito BG . Anal cancer. Jankowiski J, Hawk E (eds.). Handbook of Gastrointestinal Cancer. Wiley-Blackwell; 2013: 6:137-160.
  • National Cancer Institute. Anal Cancer Prevention (PDQ®) Health Professional Version. 2018:
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Anal Carcinoma (Version 2.2018).

Medical disclaimer

The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health.

We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete.

The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.

1-888-939-3333 | | © 2024 Canadian Cancer Society