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Risk factors

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

Authoring team

Risk factors for cervical cancer include:

  • human papilloma virus - types 16, 18 and 33; note that niether partner may have visible warts
  • smoking
  • human immunodeficiency virus
  • age of first coitus - adolescent cervix more susceptible to carcinogenic stimuli as squamous metaplasia in the transformation zone is active during this time
  • number of sexual partners - increased likelihood to be exposed to carcinogens; cervical cancer is virtually unknown in celibate women
  • young age at first pregnancy - metaplasia most active during first pregnancy
  • high parity
  • low social status - possibly, due to vitamin A deficiency
  • sexual partner with multiple sexual partners

There is no relationship with herpes simplex virus type II.

The low incidence of cervical cancer among Jewish women may possibly related to their sexual behaviour - abstinence from intercourse when "unclean" i.e. when menstruating, when have a vaginal discharge, and for the first 12-16 weeks postpartum. These are periods of increased metaplasia in the transformation zone. The benefits of male circumcision are now largely dismissed.

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