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Risk Factors

The cause of almost all cases of cervical cancer is now known to be HPV Most people infected with HPV never have serious problems from it, but a small percentage can go on to develop cancer. HPV increases the likelihood of developing several types of cancer, including cancer of the mouth, throat, vagina, vulva and cervix.

Women who fall into the following categories are more likely to develop cervical cancer:

  • Women who have been diagnosed with HPV
  • Women who have not been vaccinated against HPV
  • Women who do not have regular Pap smears to screen for precancerous cervical changes
  • Women who have a history of abnormal Pap smears or diagnoses of precancerous cervical cells
  • Women who have had cervical cancer before
  • Women whose mothers took diethylstilbestrol (DES) while they were pregnant to prevent miscarriage. These women are referred to as “DES daughters.” This drug was often prescribed in the 1950s but is no longer used.
  • Women who have had multiple sexual partners, which increases the risk of an HPV infection
  • Women who have had sex with a partner who engages in high-risk sexual activities (for example, if one partner in a couple engages in sex with multiple partners, both partners in the couple are placed at risk for HPV)
  • Women who were unusually young when they first had sexual intercourse
  • Women who have an autoimmune condition, an HIV infection, or any other condition that causes the immune system to work less effectively. A weakened immune system increases a woman’s risk of cervical cancer by increasing her risk of developing an HPV infection.
  • Women who smoke

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