Screening for anal cancer in women

Anna-Barbara Moscicki*, Teresa M. Darragh, J. Michael Berry-Lawhorn, Jennifer M. Roberts, Michelle J. Khan, Lori A. Boardman, Elizabeth Chiao, Mark H. Einstein, Stephen E. Goldstone, Naomi Jay, Wendy M. Likes, Elizabeth A. Stier, Mark L. Welton, Dorothy J. Wiley, Joel M. Palefsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

116 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The incidence of anal cancer is higher in women than men in the general population and has been increasing for several decades. Similar to cervical cancer, most anal cancers are associated with human papillomavirus (HPV), and it is believed that anal cancers are preceded by anal high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (HSIL). Our goals were to summarize the literature on anal cancer, HSIL, and HPV infection in women and to provide screening recommendations in women.

Methods: A group of experts convened by the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology and the International Anal Neoplasia Society reviewed the literature on anal HPV infection, anal SIL, and anal cancer in women.

Results: Anal HPV infection is common in women but is relatively transient in most. The risk of anal HSIL and cancer varies considerably by risk group, with human immunodeficiency virus-infected women and those with a history of lower genital tract neoplasia at highest risk compared with the general population.

Conclusions: While there are no data yet to demonstrate that identification and treatment of anal HSIL leads to reduced risk of anal cancer, women in groups at the highest risk should be queried for anal cancer symptoms and required to have digital anorectal examinations to detect anal cancers. Human immunodeficiency virus-infected women and women with lower genital tract neoplasia may be considered for screening with anal cytology with triage to treatment if HSIL is diagnosed. Healthy women with no known risk factors or anal cancer symptoms do not need to be routinely screened for anal cancer or anal HSIL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S27-S42
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Lower Genital Tract Disease
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • anal cancer
  • HIV infection
  • women
  • lower genital tract neoplasia


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