Cervical Cancer 

Cervical cancer is most often caused by the HPV virus (see below) that causes cells in the cervix to grow out of control and become cancerous.

Cancer of the cervix often develops slowly over a number of years, sometimes indicated by pre-cancerous changes that can be treated if caught early enough through regular Pap tests. 

Know Your Risk Factors

The American Cancer Society estimates nearly 3,710 women will die from cervical cancer in 2005. Knowing your risks, along with regular screenings, can help minimize your chances of getting the disease. Learn what to look for.


Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a group of viruses passed between partners during sex. Certain strains of HPV can increase your risk of cervical cancer. Condoms do not protect against HPV.

Having regular Pap tests can help your doctor detect changes in the cells of the cervix caused by HPVs. While there is no cure for HPV, treatment can remove cervical warts before they become cancerous. 


Women who smoke are nearly twice as likely as nonsmokers to get cervical cancer. Quitting smoking now reduces your risk, along with many other health benefits. 

Family history

If you have a family history of cervical cancer, especially from a mother or sister, you’re also more likely to get the disease yourself. 

HIV and STDs

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, weakens a woman's immune system making her less able to ward off early cancers.

Chlamydia is a common bacteria spread by sexual activity, and increases a woman’s chances of getting cervical cancer. Your doctor can give you a simple Pap test to see if this bacteria is present. 


Diets low in fruits and vegetables can increase your risk of cervical and other cancers. If you’re overweight, your risk is higher as well.

Birth control

Long-term use of birth control pills—some studies show a higher risk after 5 or more years of use—increases your risk for cervical cancer. 


Woman who have had many full term pregnancies have an increased risk of cervical cancer. 


DES (diethylstilbestrol) is a hormone used between 1940 and 1971 for some women in danger of miscarriage. Daughters of women who took this drug have a slightly higher risk of cancer of the vagina and cervix.  


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