Some research suggests that certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) may link to an increased risk of colon cancer.

Although HPV may link more strongly to anal cancer — about 91% of anal cancer diagnoses may occur due to HPV — there’s also a chance that it may lead to colorectal cancer.

However, this doesn’t mean that almost everyone with HPV might get colon cancer. People may also develop colon cancer when they haven’t had HPV or any other sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Is colon cancer the same thing as anal cancer?

No, there’s a difference between anal cancer and colon cancer. Anal cancer affects the anus, while colon cancer affects the intestine. However, without treatment, anal cancer can affect nearby tissues, including the colon.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), HPV can affect healthy cells, possibly turning them into atypical cells and then cancerous cells.

More than 150 HPV strains exist. HPV strains 16 and 18 are the strains associated with various types of cancer.

HPV links to an increased risk of cancers affecting the:

HPV may also link to colon cancer. According to a 2022 study based on 2000–2013 data from a Taiwanese claims database, people with HPV may be more likely to develop colorectal cancer than people who don’t have HPV.

Other research — such as these 2020 and 2018 reviews of studies — reached similar conclusions about the link between HPV and colon cancer.

However, no established links currently exist between other STIs and colon cancer.

Common risk factors for colon cancer can include:

Colon cancer may also be more common in adults older than 50 years and in people of African or Ashkenazi Jewish descent.

It isn’t possible to change some of the above risk factors.

However, certain factors related to lifestyle changes may contribute to colon cancer. Changing these factors, when possible, might lower your risk of developing the condition.

You could try to reduce your risk by:

These lifestyle changes can be challenging. If you feel overwhelmed, consider addressing one or two areas of your lifestyle at a time and with support from your doctor.

As with all cancers, the earlier a doctor detects colon cancer, the better the outcome. It’s advisable to get a colonoscopy or other cancer screenings when you turn 45 years old.

Ask a healthcare professional how frequently they recommend getting cancer screenings — their recommendations may vary depending on your personal risk of colon cancer.

Consider speaking with a healthcare professional if you have multiple risk factors for colon cancer.

For example, if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or if you have IBD, consult a healthcare professional on when and how often to get cancer screenings.

It’s also important to get medical care if you have unusual symptoms or symptoms associated with colon cancer.

Although you might not experience symptoms at all in the early stages, the following symptoms are possible:

These symptoms may often occur from less serious conditions. But consult a healthcare professional if you have these symptoms for more than a week.

From there, they can recommend whether a colon cancer screening is necessary.

Certain strains of HPV, which is an STI, may increase your risk of developing colon cancer.

However, many other risk factors could lead to the development of colon cancer. It’s a good idea to take preventive measures to reduce your risk of colon cancer and to have cancer screenings when appropriate.

Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.