Cervical Cancer: Risks and Prevention
The good news about cervical cancer is that early detection and prevention efforts have helped to decrease the incidence rates since 2004. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS) the rate is now 2.1 percent per year in women younger than 50, and by 3.1 percent per year in women 50 plus.
Still an estimated 12,170 cases of cervical cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2012, as reported in Cancer Facts & Figures 2012, from the ACS.
What Are Cervical Cancer Risk Factors?
- Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection
HPV, certain types of which are the primary cause of cervical cancer, is a group of more than 100 related viruses.
If you started having sex at an early age or have had multiple sexual partners, you are at increased risk for HPV infection.
Smokers are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer. Smoking also makes your immune system less effective in fighting HPV infections.
- Weakened immune system
Having human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, places you at higher risk for HPV infection. You are also at risk if you are receiving drugs to suppress your immune response for an autoimmune disease or if you've had an organ transplant.
- Chlamydia infection
Chlamydia is a common bacteria spread by sexual contact.
- Oral contraceptives
Long term use of oral contraceptives (OCs) is associated with increased risk of cervical cancer. Research suggests that the risk of cervical cancer goes up the longer you take OCs, but the risk goes back down after you stop. The American Cancer Society advises you to discuss with your doctor whether the benefits of using OCs outweigh the potential risks.
If you have had three or more full-term pregnancies, you have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. If you were younger than 17 when you had your first full-term pregnancy, that also increases your risk.
If you cannot afford or do not have access to healthcare services, including Pap tests, you may not get screened or treated for cervical pre-cancers.
- Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
If your mother took DES when pregnant with you, you have an increased chance of developing clear-cell adenocarcinoma of the vagina or cervix.
- Family history
If your mother or sister had cervical cancer, your chances of developing the disease are 2 to 3 times higher than if no one in the family did.
How Can You Prevent Cervical Cancer
Screening with a routine PAP test can prevent cervical cancer by finding precancerous lesions. A PAP tests is the most widely used screening method as it's a simple procedure whereby a small sample of cells is taken from your cervix and then examined under a microscope. So it's important to have regular pelvic examinations.
In addition to regular screenings, two vaccines are approved for the prevention of a common type of HPV that causes cervical cancer:
Gardasil is recommended for females 9-26;
Cervarix for females ages 9-25
American Cancer Society
Cancer Facts & Figures 2012 (PDF)
National Cervical Cancer Coalition
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Explore Original Articles About...
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Ice Falls Can Cause Serious Injuries
- 2. Can Inactivity Act Like a Disease?
- 3. Kale Snack Recipe for Diabetics
- 4. How Running Affects Arthritis
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.