Risks that contribute to cervical cancer

  • Published
  • By Shari Lopatin
  • TriWest Healthcare Alliance
You may have heard that a virus called HPV is a risk factor for cervical cancer, but did you know taking birth control pills can be one too?

While the best way to survive cervical cancer is to catch it early by screening regularly with a Pap test, here are four lesser-known risk factors for this disease:

1. Birth Control Pills
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), using birth control pills for five years or more can increase one's risk for cervical cancer. However, the American Cancer Society stresses that the risk returns to normal about 10 years after the pills are stopped.

2. Giving Birth to Three or More Children
Although no experts can pinpoint why this is a risk factor, the American Cancer Society's website explains a few theories:
A. Studies have indicated hormonal changes during pregnancies could make a woman more receptive to HPV or developing cancer.
B. Pregnancies might weaken a woman's immune system, also making her more susceptible to HPV infection or cancer development.

3. HIV
According to the CDC, having HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, or another condition that makes it hard for the body to fight infection is a risk factor for developing cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society states that HIV also makes it more difficult for the body to fight off the HPV infection, which is a large risk factor for cervical cancer.

4. Smoking
"Women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer," the American Cancer Society website says. This is because smoking exposes the body to cancer-causing toxins and elements that affect other organs, besides the lungs.

Above all else, remember to get regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer. They are a TRICARE-covered benefit, so take advantage of them.

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