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The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture

UT Extension TEAM Up Tennessee

Frequently Used Tools:

TEAM UP Tennessee: Risk Factors for HPV and/or Cervical Cancer

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a woman’s overall risk of cervical cancer is influenced by her sexual history, immune system, health and lifestyle. Here are several other factors that are believed to influence a woman’s lifetime risk of cervical cancer and/or HPV infection:

  • Number of lifetime sexual partners (the higher the number, the greater the risk)
  • Number of sexual partners your sexual partners have had
  • Smoking
  • Not using condoms with infected partners
  • Sex at an early age (<18 years) - the younger a woman is, the more susceptible her cervix is to HPV infection
  • Any health state that weakens the immune system:
    • HIV
    • Chemotherapy
    • Immune suppressing drugs (steroids, drugs to reduce transplant rejection, etc.)
  • Exposure to DES (diethylstilbestrol) prior to birth (DES is a drug that some women were given prior to 1971 because it was believed to help prevent miscarriage. It has since been linked to several health problems in the mothers who took DES and their offspring.)
  • Unprotected oral sex (which can lead to HPV related head and neck cancers)
  • Previous diagnosis with another STD (especially chlamydia)
  • Not having regular pap tests (may prevent cell changes from being found early enough to treat)
  • Poor diet low in fruits and vegetables (which contain cancer fighting antioxidants and natural chemicals that help to fight disease)
  • High number of completed pregnancies
  • Long-term use of oral contraceptives (> 5 years)
  • Low socio-economic status
  • Family history of cervical cancer
  • Having sex with uncircumcised males