Cervical Cancer Causes
The lead cause of cervical cancer is a mutation in a person’s DNA structure, caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). More than 99% of cervical cancer cases occur in women who have been previously infected with HPV.
Although there are over 100 types of HPV, at least 40 of which are passed through sexual contact. HPV infections are very common, with studies suggesting that 4 in 5 women will develop this at some point in their sexually active lives. Although this is the case, cervical cancer is relatively uncommon, indicating that only a small number are susceptible to the virus. This is supported by the fact that most types of HPV infections do not cause any apparent symptoms and will pass without requiring treatment. Other types of HPV can cause genital warts, although this type is not linked to the mutation of cells which causes cervical cancer.
Although HPV is the lead cause of cervical cancer, there are additional factors which increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer. They include:
- Other sexually transmitted diseases: Studies have suggested that having herpes or chlamydia alongside HPV can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.
- Smoking: Those who smoke are more likely to develop cervical cancer and it is estimated that 7% of cervical cancers in the UK are linked to smoking. Researchers have found cancer causing chemicals (benzyrene) in the cervical mucus of women who smoke and this is believed to damage the cells in the cervix which fight disease.• Weakened immune system: Those who suffer with a lower immune system, due to diseases such as HIV or AIDS are at higher risk of developing many cancers, including cervical cancer.
- The contraceptive pill: Recent studies have discovered that women who have taken the pill for at least 5 years, are almost twice as likely to develop cervical cancer. It has been stressed that this is still considered a small risk and contrastingly, the pill can help to protect you against womb and ovarian cancers.
- Giving birth: Those who have had children are at higher risk of developing cervical cancer. It has been reported that women who have had 7 or more children have double the risk of developing squamous cell cervical cancer, compared to those who have had only 1 child. Having a child at a young age can also increase the risk.
- Other risk factors: genetics, social class and chemicals at work have all been attributed to an increased risk of developing cervical cancer, although there are limited studies available to support these theories.
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