BACKGROUND: Anal cancer incidence increases with age and is higher in women than men. Risk factors in this group other than high-risk human papillomavirus infection are unclear. METHODS: In all, 1.3 million women were recruited in 1996-2001 and followed for incident anal cancer. Cox regression models were used to calculate relative risks (RRs) for anal cancer by various potential risk factors. RESULTS: Five hundred and seventeen incident anal cancers were registered over 13 years of follow-up. The largest RR was associated with a history of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 3 (CIN 3; RR=4.03, 95% CI 2.59-6.28). Other factors associated with significantly increased risks in multivariate analyses were: ever smoking (RR=1.49, 1.24-1.80); previous use of oral contraceptives (RR=1.51, 1.24-1.83); nulliparity (RR=1.61, 1.24-2.07); tubal ligation (RR=1.39, 1.13-1.70) and not living with a partner (RR=1.82, 1.40-2.38). The association with smoking was significantly greater for squamous cell carcinoma than adenocarcinoma of the anus (RR 1.66 vs 0.89, P for heterogeneity=0.04). CONCLUSIONS: History of CIN 3, smoking, past oral contraceptive use, nulliparity, tubal ligation and not living with a partner are risk factors for anal cancer in women. There was a significant increase in risk associated with smoking for squamous cell anal cancers but not adenocarcinomas.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





1568 - 1574


Adenocarcinoma, Adult, Aged, Anus Neoplasms, Carcinoma, Squamous Cell, Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia, England, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Incidence, Life Style, Middle Aged, Papillomaviridae, Papillomavirus Infections, Prognosis, Prospective Studies, Reproductive History, Risk Factors, Uterine Cervical Neoplasms