What Are the Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer?

An infection of the human papilloma virus, or HPV, represents the most prevalent risk factor associated with cervical cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Other risk factors include smoking, having HIV, birth control usage for more than five years, having three or more children, and having many sexual partners, notes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexual intercourse represents the most common way HPV spreads among humans.

Women who have three or more children, or have their first child before age 17, double their risk of cervical cancer, notes Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Women with a mother or sister who had or has the disease may be two or three times as likely to develop cervical cancer. Smokers double the risk of cervical cancer. Doctors consider 15 strains of HPV as high-risk strains, but only a small number of women who contract high-risk HPV develop cervical cancer.

Certain types of HPV may cause warts, or papillomas, to form on the surface of the skin or within the lining of the cervix, according to the American Cancer Society. HPV infections remain common among Americans, and most cases fail to cause symptoms. Chronic infections of HPV, especially high-risk strains, may develop into cervical cancer. As of 2015, doctors have no cure for an HPV infection. However, a vaccine administered over six months may protect against HPV infections, notes the CDC.