Cancer - Oncology

Risk Factors and Preventing Cervical Cancer

One of the main risks for developing cervical cancer is exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is sexually transmitted. There are more than 50 types of HPV. Many cause cervical cancer. Other types of HPV cause genital warts, which are not cancerous. Some forms of HPV go away without having any effect on your health.

Preventing HPV and Cervical Cancer

Your best defense against cervical cancer is vaccination before you are exposed. Another good defense is regular screening of your cervix with HPV and Pap tests. You can also lower your risk of HPV and cervical cancer by adopting the following practices:

  • Get the HPV vaccine
  • Avoid sexual activity
  • Use barrier or gel forms of birth control, such as a condom or spermicide

There are vaccines recommended for 11- and 12-year-olds that are also safe for those as young as nine years of age. If you did not get the vaccine then, there is still time. When you are 13 to 26 years of age, the vaccine can still be effective, and the vaccine is approved for patients up to 45 years of age. Boys and young men, and girls and young women are eligible for the vaccine to prevent the sexual transmission of the virus.

Vaccinated or not, sexually active women should be screened for cervical cancer. Your doctor will recommend the type of screening and schedule that is best for you.

Other Risks for Cervical Cancer

Certain behaviors and health conditions may put you at risk for cervical cancer, such as:

  • HIV/AIDS or other conditions that makes it hard for your body to resist illness
  • Smoking or exposure to second hand smoke
  • HPV exposure as well as other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Taking birth control pills for five or more years
  • Giving birth to three or more children