Cervical cancer has emerged as the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths to women in India. According to studies, it’s said that cervical cancer could affect about 80 percent of women under the age of 50. Since Cervical cancer starts occurring when abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control, the signs of the condition may only begin to show after it’s reached an advanced stage. This is why it is necessary to know the risk factors so that one can take necessary precautions to prevent an onset. Here Dr Rajni Gupta, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Fortis Malar Hospital, Chennai, tells us about the risk factors of cervical cancer.
An HPV infection: This is the most common risk factor for cervical cancer. HPV or human papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted virus. There are more than 100 different types of HPV and at least 13 of which can cause cervical cancer. The HPV vaccination available in the market can only save from two strains of the virus and hence it is necessary to go for regular cervical cancer screening to check on the same.
Multiple sexual partners: Having many sexual partners or becoming sexually active early can make one prone to cervical cancer risk. Since HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, it means having multiple sexual partners only increases the risk of getting infected with the same.
Early pregnancy: Women who give birth before the age of 17 years are significantly more likely to develop cervical cancer.
Multiple pregnancies: Women who have had at least three children in separate pregnancies are more likely to develop cervical cancer, compared with women who have never had children.
A weak immune system: The risk is higher in those with HIV or AIDS, and people who have undergone a transplant, necessitating the use of immunosuppressive medications. These women are prone to getting an infection soon and the area in the cervix is an infection-prone zone.
Suffering from other sexually transmitted diseases (STD): Chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.
Smoking: This increases the risk of cervical and other cancers. Nicotine and tobacco weaken the immune system, results in oxidative stress all of which alters the balance of the oncogenes in the body and leads to the growth of cancer.
Socio-economic status: For some unknown reasons rates of cervical cancer patients appear to be higher in areas where income is low.