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.
  • Sex
    If you started having sex at an early age or have had multiple sexual partners, you are at increased risk for HPV infection. 
  • Smoking
    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.
  • Pregnancy
    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.
  • Poverty
    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