Most scientists agree that these things affect the risk of cervical cancer. Some may apply to you, but others may not.
The risk of cervical cancer goes up with age. However, because of widespread screening with Pap test in the United States, the risk of cervical cancer stops rising around age 40, after which it remains relatively steady. The average age the disease is found in the United States is 47.
Women who smoke cigarettes have a higher risk of cervical cancer. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that can damage the genetic structure (DNA) of the body's cells and cause them to become cancerous.
People who smoke also have a higher risk of many other types of cancer, including leukemia and cancers of the lung, lip, mouth, larynx, esophagus, bladder, stomach and pancreas. Smokers also have a higher risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, bone loss (osteoporosis), emphysema and bronchitis.
Sex at an Early Age
Women who have sex for the first time at an early age have a higher risk of cervical cancer. This may be because human papillomavirus (HPV) can more easily infect a young woman's cervix since the cells there are still immature. HPV is an infection that can be sexually transmitted, and some types of HPV can cause cells in the cervix to become cancerous.
Number of Male Sexual Partners
Women who limit their number of male sexual partners have a lower risk of cervical cancer. Fewer partners mean fewer chances of getting human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is an infection that can be sexually transmitted, and some types of HPV can cause cells in the cervix to become cancerous.
Women who have sex with female partners have a lower risk of cervical cancer than do women with male partners. However, women who have never had intercourse with male partners can still develop cervical cancer, and this risk slightly increases with the number of lifetime female partners.
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Each year in the United States, millions of Americans are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The most common infections are chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV).
Women who have an STI – especially HPV – have a higher risk of cervical cancer. Some types of HPV can cause cells in the cervix to become cancerous. Other STIs may also cause cells in the cervix to become cancerous. Women who have sexually transmitted infections also have a higher risk of other health problems, like infertility and pelvic pain.
People who think they might have a sexually transmitted infection should talk to a doctor immediately. Most STIs are treatable. It may be hard for people to talk about these infections, but it's important to get treated as soon as possible.
Condoms and Diaphragms
Women who use latex condoms or diaphragms every time they have sex have a lower risk of cervical cancer. These methods of birth control act as a barrier against human papillomavirus (HPV) and other sexually transmitted infections. Some types of HPV can cause cells in the cervix to become cancerous.
Number of Births
Women who give birth to two or more children have a higher risk of cervical cancer. This may be related to injury that occurs to the cervix when a baby leaves the uterus (womb) through the cervix.
Women who get a Pap test regularly have a lower risk of cervical cancer. The test finds cells in the cervix that may turn into cancer. If these cells are found early, a woman can be treated before cervical cancer develops.
Click here for more information about cervical cancer screening.
To assess your risk for cervical cancer and get tips for reducing that risk, visit the Your Disease Risk website.