The iconic photo of Farrah Fawcett smiling in a red swimsuit marked her as the face of sexy, natural beauty in the 1970s.
Now, after her death Thursday at age 62 from anal cancer, her fight against the illness may help give a face to a potentially stigmatizing condition that can be the result of infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection.
"This does not mean that she was promiscuous," noted Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of the department of hematology and oncology at Ochsner Clinic Foundation and Hospital in Baton Rouge, La. "It simply means that she, at some point in her life, was probably exposed to the human papilloma virus."
Indeed, estimates for the percentage of anal cancers as a result of infection with HPV ranges from 45 to 90 percent. Although the exact cause of anal cancer is not known, the American Cancer Society reports that most anal cancers seem to be linked to HPV infection.