Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer


Many women have probably heard of cervical cancer but do not think it will affect them.  Cervical cancer is more prevalent in mid-life and the American Cancer Society predicts that about 12,900 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 2015.  There are ways to prevent certain kinds of cervical cancer but it is not 100% preventable.  Cervical cancer has its own unique set of risk factors and symptoms and they should be watched for.  Below we discuss what the most common risk factors and symptoms of cervical cancer are so that you can take the best care of your body.


Risk Factors:

  • HPV:  Human Papilloma Virus or HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses.  About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV with that number growing every day.  While not everyone that gets HPV will develop cervical cancer, it puts you at a much higher risk.   Luckily, while HPV is a risk factor for cervical cancer, many forms of HPV can be prevented by getting the HPV vaccination.  The CDC discusses how effective the HPV vaccination is against preventing HPV, “Two HPV vaccines are licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The bivalent HPV vaccine (Cervarix) prevents the two HPV types, 16 and 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancers. The quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil) prevents four HPV types: HPV 16 and 18, as well as HPV 6 and 11, which cause 90% of genital warts. Quadrivalent vaccine has also been shown to protect against cancers of the anus, vagina and vulva. Only quadrivalent vaccine is licensed in use for males.”
  • Smoking:  Smoking generally increases your risk for many forms of cancer and should be avoided so that you can achieve optimal health.
  • Genital Herpes:  Genital herpes has been shown to increase the risk of getting cervical cancer and is linked to HPV.  WebMD examines the link between genital herpes and cervical cancer, “Genital herpes increases the risk of cervical cancer — which kills thousands of women every year — by acting as an “accomplice” to another common virus that commonly causes this cancer. Herpes simplex virus-2, the cause of genital herpes, was detected in nearly half of women with invasive cervical cancer — nearly twice as often as in women without signs of cancer, researches report in a study published in the Nov. 6 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.  But this doesn’t mean that all women with herpes simplex-2 (HSV-2) are at increased risk. In fact, those diagnosed with HSV-2 face no additional risk if they are not also infected with human papillomavirus (HPV).”
  • Ethnicity:  The National Cancer Institute notes that research shows a link between cervical cancer and ethnicity, “Compared to White women in the general population, African American/Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer. Hispanic/Latino women, however, have the highest cervical cancer incidence rate. Interestingly, White women living in Appalachia suffer a disproportionately higher risk for developing cervical cancer than other White women. The highest death rate from cervical cancer is among African American/Black women.”
  • Oral Contraceptives:  Studies have shown that women who use oral contraceptives for more than five years have a higher incidence of cervical cancer.  The New York Times discusses the link, “Studies have reported a strong association between cervical cancer and long-term use of oral contraception (OC). Women who take birth control pills for more than 5 – 10 years appear to have a much higher risk HPV infection (up to four times higher) than those who do not use OCs. (Women taking OCs for fewer than 5 years do not have a significantly higher risk.) The reasons for this risk from OC use are not entirely clear. Women who use OCs may be less likely to use a diaphragm, condoms, or other methods that offer some protection against sexual transmitted diseases, including HPV. Some research also suggests that the hormones in OCs might help the virus enter the genetic material of cervical cells.”
  • Weakened Immune System:  Research shows that women with a weakened immune system, particularly those suffering from other conditions such as HIV of HPV, have a higher incidence of cervical cancer.

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