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Not having sex still increases the risk of cervical cancer

Cervical cancer is usually caused by HPV, but people who have not had sex are still at risk of contracting the disease due to smoking, weakened immunity.

Cervical cancer is common in women, often caused by HPV, a sexually transmitted virus. HPV can go away on its own without causing problems. In some cases it causes symptoms like genital warts or benign tumors and cervical cancer.

Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV infection. HPV can live in more areas of the body than the genitals, sometimes appearing in the anus, mouth, and throat. Therefore, skin-to-skin contact, such as during oral sex, can also spread the virus.

However, sex is not the only way to transmit the disease. Women are still at risk of cervical cancer due to a number of other factors such as smoking, weakened immune system… According to a study of 7,130 Chinese scientists in 2018 published in the Journal of Research Cancer and Cancer Treatment (India), female smokers have twice the risk of cervical cancer compared with non-smokers. Research shows that tobacco by-products can damage the DNA of cervical cells.

Cervical cancer can occur in people with weakened immune systems due to HIV, cancer, chemotherapy or immunosuppressive drugs, organ transplants, etc. When the immune system is weakened, it can happen. affects the body’s ability to fight viruses, cancer cells, and tumor growth.

HPV does not always cause obvious symptoms like warts. It can stay in the body for years and then develop into abnormal cells on the cervix. These abnormal cells can become cancerous.

Smoking increases the risk of cervical cancer.  Photo: Freepik

Smoking increases the risk of cervical cancer. Image: Freepik

How to detect and prevent

People who have sex can get HPV at some point in their lives if they don’t get vaccinated. People 26 years of age and younger can get the vaccine as recommended by their doctor. In addition to getting vaccinated, you can help reduce your risk of cervical cancer by not smoking. If you are a smoker, talk to your doctor about a smoking cessation plan to reduce your cancer risk. When having sex, you should wear condoms because they act as a “barrier” to help protect against HPV infection.

Women regardless of sexual history are advised to have a Pap smear (Pap smear) before age 21. People under age 21 may not need a Pap test. The Pap test can also diagnose benign conditions such as infections and cervicitis. The test is non-invasive and painless, in just a few minutes.

In addition to the Pap test, the HPV test is another important screening tool for cervical cancer. This test allows your doctor to look for the HPV virus in the cells of your cervix. HPV can be detected about a year after infection in the cervix.

While the Pap test can only detect abnormal cells once they have formed, the HPV test can detect infection before any precancerous cell changes develop. This way, you and your doctor can monitor your cervix for signs of cancer growth. So, even if you are not currently sexually active, if you have been in the past, an HPV test will be a useful screening tool to rule out the presence of HPV in cervical cells.

The HPV test can be done alone or at the same time as the Pap test. The American Cancer Society recommends that women ages 25 to 65 have an HPV test every 5 years; You can combine an HPV test with a Pap every 5 years or just a Pap test every 3 years.

Kim Uyen
(Follow Verywell Health)

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