Cervical Cancer Home > Cervical Cancer Risk Factors

Having risk factors for cervical cancer does not guarantee that you will develop the condition. However, they may increase your chance of developing it. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the main risk factor for this disease. Other risk factors include infrequent Pap tests, a weakened immune system, and long-term use of birth control pills.

An Introduction to Cervical Cancer Risk Factors

Doctors cannot always explain why one woman will develop cervical cancer and another woman will not. However, doctors do know that a woman with certain risk factors may be more likely than others to develop the disease. A cervical cancer risk factor is something that may increase a person's chance of developing this type of cancer.
Studies have found a number of factors that may increase the risk of cervical cancer, which include:
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • Lack of regular Pap tests
  • Weakened immune system
  • Age
  • Sexual history
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Birth control pills taken for a long period of time
  • Having many children
  • Diethylstilbestrol (DES).
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV infections are very common and are considered to be the main risk factor for cervical cancer. HPV is a group of viruses that can infect the cervix and can be passed from person to person through sexual contact. Most adults have been infected with HPV at some time in their lives. Some types of HPV can cause changes to the cells in the cervix. These changes can lead to genital warts, cancer, and other problems.
Doctors may check for HPV even if there are no warts or other symptoms. The Pap test can detect cell changes in the cervix caused by HPV. Treatment of these cell changes can prevent cervical cancer. Treatment for HPV includes:
  • Freezing the infected tissue
  • Burning the infected tissue
  • Taking certain medicine.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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