Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent cancer.
Avoiding cancerrisk factors such as smoking, being overweight, and lack of exercise may help prevent certain cancers. Increasing protective factors such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising may also help prevent some cancers. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional about how you might lower your risk of cancer.
Did You Know?
Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will provide free women’s preventive services, including mammograms, birth control and well-woman visits. Learn more.
The following risk factors increase the risk of cervical cancer:
The most common cause of cervical cancer is infection of the cervix with human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 80 types of human papillomavirus. About 30 types can infect the cervix and about half of them have been linked to cervical cancer. HPV infection is common but only a very small number of women infected with HPV develop cervical cancer.
HPV infections that cause cervical cancer are spread mainly through sexual contact. Women who become sexually active at a young age and who have many sexual partners are at a greater risk of HPV infection and developing cervical cancer.
Smoking cigarettes and breathing in secondhand smoke increase the risk of cervical cancer. Among women infected with HPV, dysplasia and invasive cancer occur 2 to 3 times more often in current and former smokers. Secondhand smoke causes a smaller increase in risk.
The following risk factors may increase the risk of cervical cancer:
High number of full-term pregnancies
Women who have had 7 or more full-term pregnancies may have an increased risk of cervical cancer.
Long-term use of oral contraceptives
Women who have used oral contraceptives ("the Pill") for 5 years or more have a greater risk of cervical cancer than women who have never used oral contraceptives. The risk is higher after 10 years of use.
The following protective factors may decrease the risk of cervical cancer:
Preventing HPV infection
HPV may be prevented by the following:
Avoiding sexual activity: HPV infection of the cervix is the most common cause of cervical cancer. Avoiding sexual activity decreases the risk of HPV infection.
Using barrier protection or spermicidal gels: Some methods used to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) decrease the risk of HPV infection. The use of barrier methods of birth control (such as a condom or gel that kills sperm) help protect against HPV infection.
Getting an HPV Vaccine: An HPV vaccine has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The HPV vaccine has been shown to prevent infection with the two types of HPV that cause most cervical cancers. The vaccine protects against infection with these types of HPV for 6 to 8 years. It is not known if the protection lasts longer. The vaccine does not protect women who are already infected with HPV.