Smoking among risks for cervical cancer

| January 14, 2011 | 0 Comments

Shari Lopatin
TriWest Healthcare Alliance

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Tricare logo

PHOENIX — While the best way to survive cervical cancer is to catch it early by screening regularly with a Pap test, lesser-known risk factors may be linked to this disease.

Birth control pills. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using birth control pills for five years or more can increase a woman’s risk for cervical cancer. However, the American Cancer Society stresses that the risk returns to normal about ten years after the pills are stopped.

Giving birth to three or more children. Although experts can’t pinpoint why this factor is a risk, the American Cancer Society’s website explains a few theories. Studies have indicated hormonal changes during pregnancies could make a woman more receptive to developing cancer or human papilloma virus, or HPV. Pregnancies might weaken a woman’s immune system, also making her more susceptible to HPV infection or cancer development.

HIV. According to the CDC, having HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), or another condition that makes it hard for the body to fight infection, is a risk factor for developing cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society states that HIV also makes it more difficult for the body to fight off the HPV infection, which is a large risk factor for cervical cancer.

Smoking. “Women who smoke are about twice as likely as nonsmokers to get cervical cancer,” according to the American Cancer Society website, because smoking exposes the body to cancer-causing toxins and elements that affect other organs, besides the lungs.

For all the reasons above, remember to get regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer. Pap tests are a Tricare-covered benefit.

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