9 Major Risks Factors Of Cervical Cancer: From Human Papillomavirus To Smoking

Date December 28, 2017

Decades ago, cervical cancer used to be one of the leading causes of death among American women of childbearing age. But after the Pap test was introduced in the 1950s, it became much easier to detect abnormal cervical cells early and start treatment in a timely manner. These days, the death rate from cervical cancer is relatively low. Here’s what the most recent data (for the period from 2003 through 2007) shows: 8.1 women out of 100.000 are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually; 2.4 women out of 100.000 die from cervical cancer every year.

How did modern medicine reach the numbers mentioned above? Early diagnosis of precancerous changes, successful treatment, and prevention strategies are all at play. Cancer of the cervix might be the most easily preventable type of cancer. Here are some methods how to do it:


And now, let’s look at the risk factors for the development of the disease and how they can be controlled.

READ ALSO: Cervical Cancer: See Your Doctor Immediately If You Notice These 4 Major Symptoms

Cervical cancer risk factors include:

1. Human papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and is the biggest cervical cancer risk factor. There are low-risk types and high-risk types of the virus; the two strains responsible for the majority of cervical cancers are HPV 16 and HPV 18. HPV is quite common, and in most cases, it resolves itself without treatment. In some cases, however, the infection can become chronic and eventually cause cancer. Because HPV infection usually shows no symptoms, women should have regular Pap tests to detect cervical cells abnormalities early if they are present.

2. Smoking and secondhand smoke

Smoking doubles your risk of developing cervical cancer and increases the risk of other types of cancer. If you smoke or breathe in secondhand smoke, carcinogens (substances that cause cancer) accumulate in your body and can eventually lead to the disease. Smoking is also harmful to your immune system and makes it less able to fight HPV infections.

3. Weakened immune system

Women who have HIV/AIDS or undergo immunosuppressant therapy are at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer because their immune system can’t fight HPV infections and slow the spread of cancer effectively.

4. Chlamydia infection

Like HPV, chlamydia is also a sexually transmitted infection that rarely shows symptoms. The only way to find out whether you have it is to get tested.

5. Certain contraceptives

Prolonged use of birth control pills can contribute to the development of cervical cancer. You should ask your doctor how long you should take them and discuss other birth control options. Interestingly, there’s evidence that using or having used an intrauterine device (IUD) can lower your risk of the disease.

6. Unhealthy diet and weight

Women who don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables or are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.

7. Family history of cervical cancer

Having a close relative who had cervical cancer puts you at a higher risk of developing it too. Let your doctor know about it because you may need to get tested more often.

8. Multiple full-term pregnancies and a full-term pregnancy before age 17

Although it’s unclear why, but women who have had 3 or more full-term pregnancies or a full-term pregnancy before they turned 17 are at an increased risk of cervical cancer.

9. Lack of access to health care

Women who can’t afford to get tested are unable to receive an early diagnosis and get proper treatment. This is especially true for developing countries.

Making healthier lifestyle choices, such as refraining from unprotected intercourse, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and giving up smoking, will reduce your risk of developing cervical cancer dramatically. You should keep your appointments with the gynecologist and get regular screening tests. If you’re younger than 26, you may also consider getting an HPV vaccine - discuss this measure with your doctor.

Sources: American Cancer Society, WebMD, HealthLine, RePORT (NIH)

READ ALSO: 9 Medical Tests Recommended To Women To Prevent Dangerous Diseases

This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended to provide medical advice. Fabiosa doesn’t take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this post. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader should consult with their physician or other health care provider.