Cervical cancer risk and prevention
Cervical cancer has been linked to certain behaviors. This means you have more control over prevention. It’s important for you to understand what activity puts you at higher risk. Talk to your provider about a screening or vaccine that is appropriate for you.
What increases your risk for cervical cancer?
A risk factor for cervical cancer is something that increases your chance of getting this cancer. Having one or more of these risk factors can make it more likely that you will get cervical cancer. But it doesn't mean that you will get it. And many people who get cervical cancer don't have any of these risk factors.
Things that may increase your risk for cervical cancer include:
- Having an ongoing infection with a high-risk type of human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is the most common cause of cervical cancer.
- High-risk sexual behaviors. These include having more than one sex partner or having a sex partner who has more than one partner. Safer sex can reduce your risk.
- Having an impaired immune system. Some conditions such as HIV can make you more likely to get an HPV infection.
- Smoking cigarettes or breathing in secondhand smoke.
Can cervical cancer be prevented?
A screening test can find cervical cell changes that can lead to cervical cancer. Regular screening tests, such as the Pap test, almost always show these cell changes before they turn into cancer.
It's important to follow up with your doctor after any abnormal test result so that abnormal cell changes can be managed. This may help prevent cervical cancer.
In addition, the HPV vaccine is an option for some women:
- If you are age 26 or younger, you can get the HPV vaccine, which protects against types of HPV that cause most cases of cervical cancer.
- If you are age 27 to 45 and have not been vaccinated for HPV, ask your doctor if getting the vaccine is right for you.
- The vaccine has not been approved for women over 45.