Practice safer sex: The surest way to get rid of the risk for genital HPV infection is to refrain from any genital contact with another person. However, for most people who are sexually active, staying in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner is the strategy most likely to prevent HPV infection.
The risk of being infected with HPV is strongly linked to having many sexual partners over a lifetime.
Still, it is difficult to determine whether a partner who has been sexually active in the past is currently infected, so using a condom even in a monogamous relationship can prevent anal cancer.
Research has shown that correct and consistent condom use can reduce the transmission of HPV between sexual partners. While condoms cannot protect completely because they don’t cover every possible HPV-infected area of the body—such as skin of the genital or anal area—condoms still provide some protection against HPV.
They also protect against HIV that could reduce the immunity to HPV infections and hasten their development into anal cancer.
Circumcision: For men, the two main factors that influence the risk of genital HPV infection are circumcision and the number of sexual partners. Men who are circumcised have a lower chance of becoming and staying infected with HPV.
Stay healthy: While no single food or nutrient can protect you against cancer by itself, strong evidence shows that a diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans helps lower risk for many cancers, including anal cancer.
As obesity, physical inactivity, poor nutrition and smoking are linked to all cancers, being cancer-free may be achieved by ensuring the opposite.
You can also prevent anal cancer—as well as other cancers—by following the AICR’s cancer prevention recommendations:
1. Stay as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.
3. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods.
4. Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.
5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
6. Limit alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day.
7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).
8. Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer.
9. Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
Finally, remember that anal cancer is rare, even among individuals with anal HPV infection. The sooner any potentially cancerous changes are detected and treated, the better.