There are a number of risk factors that increase the likelihood of cervical cancer. In particular, exposure to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), smoking, and sexual behaviour can increase your chances of developing cervical cancer.
Human Papillomavirus exposure
Cervical cancer is almost always caused by long term infection with HPV. HPV is a common virus, with four out of five people having it at some stage in their life. HPV is passed on through sexual contact, and is so common it could be considered a normal part of being sexually active. It is important to know that while HPV is common, most women with HPV do not develop cervical cancer. However, almost all abnormal Pap test results are caused by HPV.
Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
Practising safe sexual behaviours and having fewer sexual partners decreases the risk of developing cervical cancer.
Ultimately the most effective way to reduce your risk of cervical cancer is to receive a full course of the HPV vaccine, and to undergo regular Pap tests (once every two years). The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, protects against the two types of HPV which are responsible for 70-80% of cervical cancer, and regular Pap tests can serve as an early warning sign about abnormal cells in the cervix before they become cancerous. The vaccine is most effective if given before a person becomes exposed to HPV, but talk to your GP about whether or not it would be effective for you.
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