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21st Century Oncology Blog

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21st Century Oncology Blog

A Reference Guide to Cervical Cancer Risk Factors

March 12, 2014

Cervical Cancer affects thousands of women each year. The good news is that by being aware of the associated risk factors and taking the proper precautions, a women’s risk of getting cervical cancer decreases greatly.  Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the ten risks below and be sure to schedule regular check-ups with your doctor.

  1. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – HPV is a sexually transmitted disease and there are over 150 different strains of it, two of which are responsible for nearly 75% of cervical cancer cases globally.  HPV is passed through sexual intercourse.  In males, HPV is often asymptomatic and there is not a commercially available test for men, leading some males to believe they are STD-free and forego the use of condoms*, allowing their partners to contract HPV.
  2. Family History – The odds of developing cervical cancer are 2 to 3 times higher in women who have a mother or sister who have had the disease.
  3. Smoking – Many people think that smoking only increase your risk of lung cancer, which is simply not true.  The chemicals and substances in cigarettes are passed into the bloodstream through the lungs, allowing those things to reach almost any part of the body, including the cervix.  Women who smoke are nearly twice as likely to get cervical cancer.  Quitting smoking will be so beneficial to your health, so why not stop today?
  4. Diet – A healthy diet can keep your immune system doing what it’s supposed to do – keeping you healthy.  Diets that are lacking in fruits and vegetables have been shown to increase the risk of getting cervical cancer. 
  5. Skipping Annual Exams – A woman’s annual health exam should always include a pap smear (or pap test). This is a screening test for cervical cancer.  As with most cancers, early detection is key for better recovery and survival so be sure you’re getting your annual exam.
  6. Oral Contraceptives – Long-term use of oral contraceptives, meaning continued use for five or more years, can lead to an increased risk of cervical cancer.  That risk can return to normal approximately ten years after stopping oral contraceptive use.
  7. Young Age of Pregnancy – According to the American Cancer Society, women who have a full-term pregnancy before age 17 are more than twice as likely to develop cervical cancer than a woman who has her first full-term pregnancy after age 25.
  8. Poverty – While this made seem odd to include, poverty is a risk factor because women living in poverty are less likely to receive regular health screenings which are essential in early detection and prevention.  There are low-cost and free clinics available in most areas. 
  9. Number of Sexual Partners – The more sexual partners you have, the higher your risk of contracting an STD such as HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer.
  10. Weak Immune System – A healthy immune system allows the body to fight off an HPV infection entirely.  Those with lowered or weak immune systems should practice extra caution, especially when it comes to sexual activity.

The American Cancer Society provides further details and cervical cancer risk factors. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cervical cancer, 21st Century Oncology offers radiation therapy treatments for cervical cancer throughout the country.

*Please note that condoms are not 100% effective against any STD but certainly increase the safety of intercourse