In most cases, the causes of cervical cancer are STIs (sexually transmitted infections), specifically the human papilloma virus, or HPV. Potential causes of and risk factors for cervical cancer are given below:
- Human papilloma virus (HPV): Chief among the risk factors for cervical cancer is HPV, a sexually transmitted infection. HPV is a group of more than 100 viruses that can cause genital warts or cervical cancers.
- Smoking: Women who smoke are twice as likely to contract cervical cancer, as tobacco smoke produces chemicals thought to damage DNA in cervical cells.
- HIV infection: HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, creates a weak immune system, making a woman’s body less able to fight off HPV and early cancers.
- Early sexual activity: Having sex before the age of 18 appears to increase the risk of cervical cancer, as a younger woman’s immature cells seem more likely to develop precancerous changes. Meanwhile, women with many sexual partners have a greater risk of acquiring HPV and cervical cancers.
- Chlamydia infection: Chlamydia, a bacteria that can infect women’s sexual organs and spreads through intercourse, has been linked to cervical cancer in some studies.
- Dietary choices: Diets low in fruits and vegetables are linked to increased chances of cancer, including cervical cancer.
- Birth control pills: Long-term use of birth control pills—i.e., five or more years—has in some studies been linked to a higher risk of cervical cancer.
- Multiple pregnancies: Women who have had more than one full-term pregnancy also seem to be at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer, though it’s not entirely clear why.
- Age: Cervical cancer takes awhile to develop, so women between the ages of 35 and 50 are most commonly diagnosed, though women over the age of 50 can develop cervical cancer as well. In fact, women over 65 account for one fourth of cervical cancer diagnoses and 40 percent of cervical cancer-related deaths.