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HPV: Who Gets Cervical Cancer?

One of two North American woman have been infected with the human papilloma wart virus that causes cervical cancer, but only one in 250 gets that cancer. Several studies try to explain why so few infected women develop cervical cancer, and how you can reduce your risk.

A study from Sweden shows that women who smoke are far more likely to suffer cervical cancer than their non-smoking counterparts (1). Researchers compared the medical records of 375 women who had cervical cancer to those of 363 women who did not. Pap smears taken an average of nine years before cervical cancer occurred showed which women were infected with HPV- 16. Blood tests showed the number of viruses in their bloodstream. Nineteen different strains of HPV have been associated with cervical cancer. HPV-16 is the most carcinogenic. Smokers infected with HPV-16 were 14.4 times more likely to suffer cervical cancer. Smokers with high blood levels of HPV-16 were 27 times more likely to get cervical cancer. As solid cancers grow, they produce angiogenesis factors that increase blood flow to them to supply nutrients and energy. Tobacco contains nicotine, a potent angiogenesis factor.

Another study from Portland showed that most women who develop cervical cancer from the wart virus eat a diet that is low in vitamin A. Other studies have shown that infection with the wart virus plus bacteria such as chlamydia increases risk for developing the cancer. Lack of vitamin A may prevent a woman's immunity from killing the wart virus. Smoking increases the body's production of angiogenesis factor that allows cancers to grow, and being infected with both the wart virus and chlamydia or other bacteria may be too much for the body's immunity.

Cervical cells undergo a series of changes as they pass from normal toward cancerous, so all pre-menopausal women should get yearly Pap smears. Check with your doctor.

1) Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, November 2006 2) Dietary risk factors for invasive and in-situ cervical carcinomas in Bangkok, Thailand. Cancer Causes & Control, 2002, Vol 13, Iss 8, pp 691-699. J Shannon, DB Thomas, RM Ray, M Kestin, A Koetsawang, S Koetsawang, K Chitnarong, N Kiviat, J Kuypers. Shannon J, Portland VA Res Fdn, 3710 SW US Vet Hosp Rd, P3-HSRD, Portland,OR 97201 USA.

3) A prospective study of high-grade cervical neoplasia risk among human papillomavirus-infected women. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2002, Vol 94, Iss 18, pp 1406-1414. PE Castle, S Wacholder, AT Lorincz, DR Scott, ME Sherman, AG Glass, BB Rush, JE Schussler, M Schiffman. Castle PE, NCI, Div Canc Epidemiol & Genet, 6120 Execut Blvd, Rm 7074, MSC 7234, Bethesda,MD 20892 USA

Checked 1/5/17

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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