Cervical cancer risk factors to be aware of

Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on March 15, 2021. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Cervical cancer, which occurs when an abnormal growth of cells is found on the cervix, often develops over several years. Because there are few symptoms, many women who have it can go months and even years without knowing. That’s why it’s important to know the cervical cancer risk factors and take preventative steps to catch abnormalities in your body early.

Read on to learn more about what causes cervical cancer and the risk factors you should be aware of.


The HPV Test from Everlywell allows you to collect your own sample from the comfort of your home and send it to a lab for HPV testing. You receive your digital results in days and in the case that your results are abnormal, you are able to connect with a physician at no additional cost to discuss your case.


What are the main causes of cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix—the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. The main types of cervical cancer are:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma. This is the most common type of cervical cancer. It begins in the thin, flat cells (squamous cells) lining the outer part of the cervix, which projects into the vagina.
  • Adenocarcinoma. This type of cervical cancer begins in the column-shaped glandular cells that line the cervical canal.

According to the CDC, almost all cervical cancers are caused by specific strains of the sexually transmitted infection human papillomavirus (HPV). These HPV types—known as high-risk strains or genotypes—can cause changes in a woman’s cervix that can lead to cervical cancer over time. Other types of HPV (low-risk genotypes) can cause relatively harmless genital or skin warts and do not contribute to the development of cancer.

What age group is most at risk for cervical cancer?

According to the CDC, all women are at risk for cervical cancer. That being said, it rarely develops in women younger than 20, and typically occurs in women over age 30. Cervical cancer is most frequently diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 44.

If you want to screen for HPV at home and better understand your risk for cervical cancer, you may be interested in our HPV Test. The easy-to-use, at-home collection kit includes everything you need for collecting a vaginal swab and sending it to a lab for HPV testing. You get your digital results in days and in the event that your test results are abnormal, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with our independent physician network at no additional cost to discuss your particular case.

What are the risk factors for developing cervical cancer?

Human papillomavirus, also known as HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S., and anyone who is sexually active can contract it. [ref] Most HPV infections do not increase one’s risk of cancer and are naturally cleared out of the body over time (usually in about 2 years).

However, being infected with high-risk HPV strains is associated with a greater risk of cervical cancer. In fact, just two types of high-risk HPV—HPV type 16 and 18—are thought to contribute to about 70% of all cervical cancer cases worldwide.

Fortunately, with regular HPV testing, it’s possible to find out if you might be infected with high-risk HPV strains. The sooner you know about a potential infection the better because it takes time for cervical cancer to develop, with precancerous cell changes occurring first—and precancerous cells can be treated to help prevent cervical cancer.


Take the Everlywell at-home HPV Test to check whether you test positive for high-risk genotypes of HPV (including types 16 and 18). It’s easy—you collect your own sample at home using a vaginal swab and send it to a lab for testing (a prepaid shipping label is included with the kit).


Other risk factors for cervical cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • Having several sexual partners (or one sexual partner who has sex with multiple other partners)
  • Having other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV
  • A weakened immune system
  • Using birth control pills for a long time
  • Having given birth to three or more children

Keep in mind that while these risk factors are associated with cervical cancer, this does not mean that if you have any of these risk factors that you will develop cancer. Instead, these risk factors help you and your healthcare provider better understand your overall risk so you can make informed decisions about your health from there.

To lower your risk of cervical cancer, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Take the HPV vaccine
  • Do routine HPV screenings and Pap smears
  • Use condoms during sex
  • Don't smoke
  • Limit your number of sexual partners

Looking to understand your potential risk for cervical cancer? Our at-home HPV Test will tell you whether you test positive for high-risk genotypes of HPV. It’s easy—you collect your own sample at home using a vaginal swab and send it to a lab for testing. After you receive your digital results in a few days, you are able to connect with a physician at no additional cost to discuss your case if your results are abnormal.


References

1.What Are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer?. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed March 15, 2021.

2. Basic Information About Cervical Cancer. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed March 15, 2021.

3. Genital HPV Infection - Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed March 15, 2021.

4. Cervical cancer. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed March 15, 2021.

5. What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Cervical Cancer?. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed March 15, 2021.

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