Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer

Executive Summary

Risk factors influence the chance of developing cancer among individuals, but individuals with no risk factors also develop cancer. Risk factors concerning cancer growth in the cervix are due to multiple reasons. According to a recent study, cancer hospitals have identified proper factors based on studying women affected by cervical cancer. The common risk factors that lead to the development of cervical cancer include Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection, Immune system deficiency, age, smoking, herpes, socioeconomic factors, consumption of oral contraceptives (birth control pills), exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES).

Risk Factors Associated with Cervical Cancer

The risk factors can be anything that influences the development of cervical cancer. But having a risk factor, or many, does not give certainty of having particular cancer. Some people with no risk factors can also develop cancer. 

Risk factors concerning cancer growth in the cervix are due to multiple reasons. According to a recent study, cancer hospitals have identified proper factors based on studying women affected by Cervical Cancer.

The below-mentioned factors may raise a person’s risk of developing cervical cancer:

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection: The most critical risk for cervical cancer is infection with Human papillomavirus ​1​. Most people become HPV infected when they are sexually active, and most people clear the virus without problems. There are around 100 different types of HPV, and not all of them are linked to cancer. The HPV types frequently linked with cervical cancer are HPV16 and HPV18. Having multiple sex partners or starting to have sex earlier puts a person at a greater risk of being infected with high-risk HPV types.
  • Immune system deficiency: People with weak immune systems have a greater risk of developing cervical cancer. Immunosuppression from corticosteroid medications, treatments for other types of cancer, organ transplantation, or from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), can cause a lowered immune system. When a person has HIV, their immune system can fight off early cancer.
  •  Age: People younger than 20 years rarely develop cervical cancer ​2​. The risk goes higher between the late teens and mid-30s. Women past this age group remain at risk and need regular cervical cancer screenings, including a Pap test or an HPV test.
  • Smoking: Smoking women are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer as women who do not smoke.
  • Herpes: Women having genital herpes have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • Some research studies propose that oral contraceptives (birth control pills) may be linked with a greater risk of cervical cancer and may be related to higher-risk sexual behavior ​3​. However, further research is needed to understand how oral contraceptive use and the development of cervical cancer are connected.
  • Socioeconomic factors: Cervical cancer is more common among women who are less likely to have access to screening for cervical cancer. Those populations are more likely to include Hispanic women, Black women, American Indian women, and women from low-income households.
  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES): Women whose mothers were given this particular drug during pregnancy to prevent miscarriage have a greater chance of developing a rare type of cancer of the vagina or cervix. Women exposed to DES should have an annual pelvic examination that includes a cervical Pap test and a 4-quadrant Pap test, in which samples of cells are removed from all sides of the vagina to check for any abnormal cells.

Research finds what factors causes cervical cancer, ways to prevent it, and what can be implemented to lower the risk. 


  1. 1.
    Wang Z, Wang J, Fan J, et al. Risk factors for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and cervical cancer in Chinese women: large study in Jiexiu, Shanxi Province, China. J Cancer. Published online 2017:924-932. doi:10.7150/jca.17416
  2. 2.
    Crosbie EJ, Einstein MH, Franceschi S, Kitchener HC. Human papillomavirus and cervical cancer. The Lancet. Published online September 2013:889-899. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(13)60022-7
  3. 3.
    Cervical cancer and hormonal contraceptives: collaborative reanalysis of individual data for 16 573 women with cervical cancer and 35 509 women without cervical cancer from 24 epidemiological studies. The Lancet. Published online November 2007:1609-1621. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(07)61684-5