• Anal cancer is a rare form of cancer
  • Anal cancer is often caused by certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • HPV is poorly cleared by people with a weakened immune system
  • Due to an HIV infection, the immune system is reduced, causing a greater risk of anal cancer




Anal cancer is a rare form of cancer. Anal cancer starts with abnormal cells (dysplasia) that can then develop into cancer. The cancer develops in the anus or in the skin around the anus. Anal cancer is diagnosed in 100 to 300 people every year in the Netherlands. Usually these people are between 50 and 70 years old.


Complaints that are consistent with anal cancer are loss of blood or mucus from the anus, pain (when sitting or defecating), itching at the anus, feeling more or less urge to defecate and sometimes there may be a swelling or lump near the anus .
Also, someone can lose weight without being actively involved in losing weight. Many of these complaints can also occur with hemorrhoids (a hemorrhoid is not an HIV indicator condition). The GP can distinguish these disorders from each other.


Anal cancer can be caused by certain types of the human papilloma virus. This virus can also cause cervical cancer.
You can get anal cancer if HPV is in your body for a long time, meaning your body is not able to clear itself from HPV properly. Normally, the body clears up the virus itself and the virus does not cause many complaints. Anal cancer does not always have to be caused by HPV. There is often no clear cause for anal cancer.

Risk group

Groups at risk for developing anal cancer are people with a long-term HPV infection or people who contract HPV several times. These risk groups include people who have multiple sex partners, have anal sex, smoke or have a weakened immune system, for example due to HIV or drugs that suppress the immune system.

HIV and anal cancer

People with an HIV infection have a reduced immune system. As a result, they are less able to clear HPV from their body. As a result, HPV remains in the body for a long time. This can allow anal dysplasia (deviating cells) and anal cancer to develop.
HIV indicator conditions are conditions or symptoms that occur more often in people with an underlying HIV infection than in people without an HIV infection. Anal cancer is a HIV indicator condition. If you have or have had anal cancer and have not been tested for HIV, it is advisable to ask your doctor or general practitioner for an HIV test. Do you find it difficult to ask for an HIV test? You may download a call card that will help you formulate your question.