What Causes Cervical Cancer?

What causes cervical cancer? One of the most common forms of cancer affecting women, cervical cancer develops when abnormal cells form on the cervix and then grow and divide at a rapid pace. Normal, healthy cells develop in patterns that are predetermined by information contained in their chromosomes, or DNA molecules. DNA is a chemical that carries instructions for almost everything the cells do. Certain packets of DNA, called oncogenes, promote cellular division. Others, called tumor suppressor genes, inhibit cellular division, which causes the cells to die at an appropriate time.

Cancer can be caused by DNA mutations that affect the oncogenes or tumor suppressor genes, which can lead to an excessive accumulation of cells. Some tumor suppressor genes can be rendered ineffective by certain proteins known as E6 and E7. The body produces these proteins after being infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV). The presence of E6 and E7 proteins can allow the cells lining the cervix to grow uncontrollably, which, in some cases, can lead to cancer. Although not all women with HPV develop cervical cancer, HPV is still regarded as one of its leading causes.

However, it is important to note that:

  • Not all types of HPV cause cervical cancer. 
  • Certain risk factors, such as smoking and HIV infection, can influence whether HPV exposure leads to the development of cervical cancer.
  • An HPV infection can resolve on its own.
  • Most adults have been infected with HPV at some point during their lives.

Therefore, HPV does not completely explain cervical cancer. As scientific research continues to advance, more is being learned about the causes and risk factors of the condition.  In recognition of its cancer research advances and robust clinical trials, Moffitt Cancer Center has been designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center. Through our highly focused work, we continue to transform the diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer and other forms of cancer.

As a result, our patient outcomes and survival rates outrank national averages, and our patients enjoy an enhanced quality of life. If you would like to know more about what causes cervical cancer, you can call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our online new patient registration form. To make it easier for our patients, we do not require referrals at Moffitt.