Cervical Cancer Risk Factors
Among the known cervical cancer risk factors, an infection of the human papillomavirus (HPV) is most often linked to the development of cervical cancer. Nevertheless, experts emphasize that not all women with HPV will develop cervical cancer. Furthermore, while cervical cancer is usually asymptomatic, abnormal changes to the cells within the cervix can often be detected through a routine Pap test. Cervical cancer is highly curable when diagnosed and treated in its early stages, so the importance of regular Pap smears cannot be overstated.
In addition to HPV, other possible cervical cancer risk factors include:
- Multiple and early-age pregnancies – Women who have had three or more full-term pregnancies, or who had their first full-term pregnancy before age 17, have an increased risk.
- Family history – Women with a first-degree relative (sister, mother or daughter) who had cervical cancer have a heightened risk.
- Sexual history – Certain types of sexual behavior can increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer, such as having sexual intercourse before age 18 or with many partners.
- Oral contraceptive use – Women who have taken birth control pills for five years or longer have a temporary increased risk that usually returns to normal within a few years after discontinuing the contraceptive pills.
- Smoking – Smoking can increase the risk of multiple health conditions, including cancer.
- A weakened immune system – Women who have HIV or other health conditions, or who take medications that limit the body’s ability to fight off infection, have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
Any woman who is concerned about her cervical cancer risk factors is welcome to consult with the renowned physicians at Moffitt Cancer Center, with or without a referral. We’re proud to be a recognized leader in the diagnosis and treatment of all forms of cancer, and to offer patients access to a multispecialty team in a single convenient location.