Doctors and researchers at major medical centers are beginning to call for the widespread use of anal Pap tests to screen gay men for early cellular changes that could indicate the development of anal cancer due to research showing that men who engage in receptive anal sex have a risk of anal cancer more than 30 times higher than those who don't, The New York Times reports. HIV-positive gay men are at an even higher risk. Anal cancer, which can be fatal if not diagnosed in its early stages, can be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Most sexually active gay men carry the virus, with as many as 90% of HIV-positive gay men also coinfected with HPV.
"This is something we really need to be paying attention to," said Joel Palefsky, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. "We've decided as a society that it's important to spend billions of dollars to test for and treat cervical dysplasia before it turns into cancer. And we should also be testing for and treating anal dysplasia in high-risk populations."
Palefsky recommends anal Pap smears every two to three years for HIV-negative gay and bisexual men and annually for those who are infected with HIV.