Anal cancer incidence and survival: comparing the greater San-Francisco bay area to other SEER cancer registries

PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e58919. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058919. Epub 2013 Mar 6.


The incidence of squamous cell carcinoma of the anus, anal canal, and anorectum (SCCA) has increased over time. However, there are still no national guidelines on screening for SCCA among high-risk populations. Providers at University of California, San Francisco have been at the forefront of providing anal dysplasia screening. To determine whether such a screening program allows for earlier detection of abnormalities and consequently, improves patient survival, we conducted an ecological study using data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program to compare the San Francisco-Oakland catchment area (SF-O) to other SEER sites where routine screening has not been as accessible. Cox regression models were utilized to assess the impact of residing in the SF-O region, versus other SEER sites, on cause-specific mortality hazard. Logistic regression was used to determine if site was associated with the probability of having an in situ versus invasive tumor among SCCA cases. All analyses were stratified on calendar time (1985-1995 and 1996-2008) to compare differences pre- and post- highly active anti-retroviral therapy. Among SCCA cases, being reported by the SF-O registry was associated with a four fold higher probability of having an in situ tumor (rather than an invasive tumor) [95% CI: 3.48-4.61], compared to sites outside of California, between 1996 and 2008. Cases reported from the SF-O region between 1996 and 2008 had a 39% lower mortality risk than those reported from registries outside California (95% CI: 0.51-0.72). However, there was no decrease in the rate of invasive SCCA over this period. This is the first ecological study to evaluate whether access to anal cancer screening programs may help improve patient survival by allowing for earlier detection of lesions. Our results imply that routine screening programs may help detect SCCA at an earlier stage and thus, potentially impact patient survival.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anus Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Anus Neoplasms / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / mortality
  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / standards
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • SEER Program*
  • San Francisco / epidemiology