Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that is specific to the female gender. It borrows its name from the location of the body it starts from; the cervix, the end lower part of the uterus. Cervical cancer predominantly affects sexually active women of between 30 and 45 years.
Main Causes Cervical Cancer
A lot of research has and continue to be done in an attempt to understand how cervical cells become cancerous. One of the causes of cervical cancer that has been known all along is infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Although over 100 strains of HPV have been identified, strains 16 and 18 are responsible for over 70% of cases. 10% of cervical cancer cases occur because of strains 31 and 45. However, it is not mandatory that a woman diagnosed with HPV develops cervical cancer. Indeed, HPV infections are very common yet not all women affected develop cancer. The majority of women only end up with genital warts.
The occurrence of cervical cancer also in the recent past been linked to gene mutations. This can happen in two ways; when oncogenes (genes responsible for growth, division and natural death of cells) fail to control the death of old cells or when genes responsible for controlling the level of cells (tumor suppressor genes) fail in their duty.
There are several risk factors that expose a woman to the increased risk of developing cervical cancer, however below 7 increase the risk exponentially.
The main risk for any woman to develop cervical cancer is infection by HPV. Although not every woman infected by HPV ends up developing cervical cancer, the mere fact that it is an HPV infection is in itself enough to encourage the development of the disease.
The virus affects the skin and cells that line the genitals. It can also infect such other areas as the mouth, throat, and anus. It spreads from one person to another through skin contact. Thus, all forms of sex including anal and oral sex spread the virus very easily.
2. Oral Contraceptives
Long-term use of oral contraceptive has for a long time been associated with the development of cervical cancer. While those who have used such contraceptives for up to 8 years have three times the risk of developing the disease, those who have used contraceptives for over 10 years are more at risk. The risk increases in a case where a woman uses oral contraceptives when she is already infected by the HPV.
3. High number of Pregnancies
For unknown reasons, women with many children remain a high risk of developing cervical cancer compared to women with few children. Giving birth to many children has been also linked to increased risk of HPV infections.
4. Early Pregnancy
Early pregnancy between the ages of 16 and 20 has also been found to put young women at high risk of developing cervical cancer.
Smoking has been linked to the development of different types of cancer including cervical cancer. Women who smoke and those around them remain at great risk of developing cervical cancer.
6. Weak Immune System
It has been observed that women diagnosed with HIV/AIDS virus are always at high risk of developing cervical cancer. This is because the virus damages the body’s immune system, making it impossible for the body to naturally fight off infections.
7. Family history of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer runs in families and women from families with a history of the disease remain at high risk of developing the disease. That’s why timely screening is recommended to women. Every women who is at increased risk of cervical cancer should go for pap smear test every 2 years.