Cervical Cancer, Sex, Smoking And HPV

Cervical cancer and sex - Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Any woman who is infected with the HPV virus can get cervical cancer.

Anyone who is sexually active can contract the human papillomavirus because it is a sexually transmitted disease (STI) that is very contagious. The virus is so widespread that 80% of all women ever get HPV infection during their sexually active life. Fortunately, a vaccine against HPV has been available for several years.
• You may become infected with HPV from the first time you are released.
• You can be re-infected every time you are released if your partner is infected.
• The risk of infection with HPV is greater as a woman or partner have multiple changing sexual contacts. But that does not mean that when a woman has cervical cancer that she or her partner has (had) more changing contacts. After all, one sexual contact is enough to become infected with this widely spread virus.
• Cervical cancer is more common in women who are sexually active from an early age. This is probably because the cervix is ​​still changing in young women (younger than 16 years). This makes it more susceptible to infections.

An HPV infection does not mean that you will always get cervical cancer.

In 80 to 90 out of 100 HPV infections, the immune system spontaneously resolves the virus. HPV continues to lurk in 10 to 20 of the 100 women who become infected. As a result, after several years, different cells can develop in the cervix that can evolve into cancer cells. But they can just as well return to their normal form. An important part of these abnormalities, therefore, disappears spontaneously, without treatment. This does not happen with a small number of women. If these abnormalities are not treated, the abnormal cells can develop into renal cancer cells.
Ultimately, only 1 in 100 women infected with HPV will develop cervical cancer if they are not treated.

There are factors that increase the risk of getting cervical cancer.

• Smoking
Cervical cancer is more common in women who smoke. Research shows that in smokers the immune system does not work as well. The body then has more trouble to clear up an HPV infection. Smokers, therefore, have a greater risk of persistent HPV infections.

• HIV and AIDS
Attenuated immune system Women with a weakened immune system are less likely to clear up an HPV infection. Cervical cancer is, therefore, more common in women with HIV and AIDS and in women taking medication that suppresses the immune system, for example, women who have undergone an organ transplant.

Do not have a smear taken
Cervical cancer is more common in women who never take a smear. A smear can detect pre-stages of cervical cancer. These preliminary stages are not yet cancer. They can be treated if necessary, so that cervical cancer is prevented. Therefore, women aged 25 to 64 are recommended to take a smear every three years as part of the cervical cancer screening program.

Long-term use of the pill or other hormonal contraception (longer than 5 years) causes a very slightly increased risk of developing cervical cancer.
The risk falls back after stopping the pill. After 10 years, the risk is back to the same level as that of never-pill users.

Vaccination against HPV

Since a few years, you can be vaccinated against the HPV virus. These vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix) protect against the most dangerous types of HPV virus (HPV 16 and HPV 18) that can cause cervical cancer. By having you vaccinated before infection with the virus can occur, so before you have sex for the first time, about 70% of the cervical cancers can be avoided. There is a new vaccine on the way in which more than 90% of the cancers can be prevented.
Also by using a condom, you are less likely to contract the virus, but this protection is not guaranteed.

*Image source : Gezonder Leven

References :
  1. National Cancer Institute
  2. gezondheid.be/
  3. American Cancer Society