Risk factors for cervical cancer

Christina S. Chu, MD
Last Modified: March 24, 2002


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I have been diagnosed with cervical cancer. Two conflicting opinions have brought me to you. Is it true that the only way to get cervical cancer is through a sexually transmitted disease? Are there are other risk factors? I am a smoker, and I am sure that is a much bigger risk for me than catching an STD.

Please help.  


Christina S. Chu, MD, Assistant Professor of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

There are many different risk factors associated with cervical cancer. These include early age first sexual intercourse, having a large number of sexual partners, having many children, smoking, a history of sexually transmitted diseases, HPV infection (particularly types 16 and 18), and being exposed to DES as a developing embryo (in other words, if your mother took DES while she was pregnant with you). While it is true that having certain types of HPV infection and smoking have both been associated with an increased risk for developing cervical cancer, no one can be certain what caused your disease. The important thing is that you get appropriate treatment and follow-up now. This may be a great motivation to help you stop smoking as well.