Squamous cell carcinoma of the anus (SCCA) is a common cancer in the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected population, and its incidence continues to increase in male homosexuals. Combined chemoradiation with mitomycin C and 5-fluorouracil was poorly tolerated by severely immunocompromised patients in the early 1990s. In the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), however, recent data indicate that: (1) most HIV patients with anal cancer can tolerate standard chemotherapy regimens; and (2) this approach is associated with survival rates similar to those of HIV-negative patients. However, HIV-positive patients with SCCA are much younger, more likely to develop local tumor recurrence, and ultimately die from anal cancer than immune competent patients. Taken together, these findings suggest that anal cancer is an often fatal neoplasia in middle-aged HIV-positive male homosexuals. In this population, SCCA is an opportunistic disease resulting in patients with suboptimal immune function from persistent infection and prolonged exposition to oncogenic human papillomaviruses (HPVs). Large-scale cancer-prevention strategies (routine anuscopy and anal papanicolaou testing) should be implemented in this population. In addition, definitive eradication of oncogenic HPVs within the anogenital mucosa of high-risk individuals might require a proactive approach with repeated vaccination.
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