Types of anal cancer

There are different types of anal cancer. The most common type of anal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma.

About types of anal cancer

There are different types of anal cancer. Knowing the type you have helps your doctor plan your individual treatment.

Squamous cell carcinoma

9 out of 10 anal cancers (90%) develop in the squamous cells. The squamous cells make up the lining in the anal canal.

There are a few different types of squamous cell carcinoma, but they are all treated in the same way.


Some anal canal cancers develop in the glandular cells that make mucus. These are called adenocarcinomas. They are rare – less than 5 in 100 (5%) of all anal cancers are adenocarcinomas.

Adenocarcinoma in the anus are very similar to rectal cancers and are treated in the same way.

Basal cell carcinoma

This is a type of skin cancer that develops in the area around the anus. It is usually treated in the same way as other basal cell skin cancers.


This is a skin cancer that develops from cells called melanocytes, which give our skin its colour. Anal melanoma is rare – less than 1 in 100 anal cancers (1%) are this type. They are usually treated in the same way as other skin melanomas.

Small cell cancer

This type of cancer usually affects the lung, but it can be found in other parts of the body. Rarely, it can develop in the anus. It is treated in the same way as other small cell cancers.

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

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