Anal cancer screening behaviors and intentions in men who have sex with men

J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Sep;23(9):1452-7. doi: 10.1007/s11606-008-0698-6. Epub 2008 Jul 10.


Background: The incidence of anal cancer has increased in the past decade, especially among men who have sex with men (MSM) and HIV-infected individuals. There is controversy about whether to routinely screen for anal cancer in MSM.

Objectives: To determine whether current anal cancer screening behaviors, intention, and concern differ by HIV serostatus and to identify characteristics of men who intend to seek anal cancer screening.

Design and participants: Cross-sectional analysis of data collected from 901 HIV-infected and 1,016 HIV-uninfected MSM from the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) in 2005-2006.

Measurements: Self-reported anal cancer screening history, attitudes, and intentions.

Results: A history of anal warts was relatively common in these men (39%), whereas having a recent anal Pap test (5%), intention to seek anal cancer screening in the next 6 months (12%), and concern about anal cancer (8.5%) were less common. Intention to seek anal cancer screening was associated with enabling factors (screening availability, health insurance), need factors (HIV-infection, history of anal warts), concern about anal cancer, and recent sexual risk taking. Among four large US cities, there was significant regional variability in anal cancer screening behaviors, intention, and concern (all p<0.001). Most MSM (76%) indicated they would go to their primary care physician for an anal health problem or question.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates a low rate of anal cancer screening and intention to screen among MSM. As more evidence emerges regarding screening, primary care physicians should be prepared to discuss anal cancer screening with their patients.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anus Neoplasms / complications
  • Anus Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Anus Neoplasms / psychology
  • Condylomata Acuminata / complications
  • Condylomata Acuminata / diagnosis*
  • Condylomata Acuminata / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies