The most common types of cervical cancer are not hereditary, so a person is not more likely to develop it if a parent or close relative has had the disease. However, some rare types of cervical cancer may have a genetic component.
Cervical cancer is cancer that develops in the cervix, the part of the body that connects the vaginal canal to the uterus. Changes to certain genes, such as the DICER1 gene or STK11 gene, may increase a person’s risk of cervical cancer.
This article describes which types of cervical cancer may be hereditary and outlines some familial risk factors for the disease. We also list other risk factors for cervical cancer and provide information on symptoms, prevention, and outlook.
However, some very rare types of cervical cancer can be hereditary, meaning they have a genetic component. In these cases, a person may be at risk of developing such cancers if they have a genetic variant that increases their risk of developing cervical cancer or a first-degree relative with cervical cancer linked to a genetic cause.
If multiple people on one side of a person’s family have cervical cancer, a doctor may recommend they have additional screening tests or more regular screening for cervical cancer.
If doctors notice a trend in cancer types among family members, they may recommend additional screening or even hereditary cancer screening. This can help discover genetic trends or risk factors for cancer.
Having a risk factor for cervical cancer does not mean that a person will develop the disease, only that they are at increased risk of doing so.
There are two main genetic risk factors for cervical cancer: DICER1 syndrome and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS).
DICER1 syndrome is a rare genetic condition causing changes in the DICER1 gene. It is a risk factor for hereditary cancer types in children and young adults.
Having DICER1 gene variations may increase the risk of a rare type of cervical cancer called cervical embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS) and other sarcomas of the cervix.
While many problems that stem from the DICER1 gene appear in childhood, about 33% of cervical ERMS cases occur in people over the age of 20.
PJS is a genetic condition that causes changes in a tumor-suppressing gene called STK11. The condition causes noncancerous growths called polyps to appear in the gastrointestinal tract. It also increases the risk of some cancer types, including cervical cancer.
PJS may have an association with some more rare cancer types, such as minimal deviation adenocarcinoma (MDA). This cancer type accounts for around
There are a number of other important risk factors for cervical cancer besides genetics. These include:
There are many types of HPV infection. Some do not increase the risk of cervical cancer, while others may cause changes in the cervix that could develop into cervical cancer over time. Two types of HPV, HPV 16 and 18, cause approximately
Doctors recommend regular screening tests to check for HPV infections in anyone between
Having several sexual partners or having sex with someone who has many sexual partners may be a risk factor for cervical cancer. A person with a higher number of sexual partners may have a greater chance of exposure to HPV, the major cause of most cervical cancers.
Taking oral contraceptives for extended lengths of time
Smoking and tobacco use increases the risk of cancer developing anywhere in the body, including the cervix.
Tobacco smoke contains at least
Anyone having trouble quitting smoking should speak with a doctor for information and advice.
Income status and health inequity
People from low income areas
People with early stage cervical cancers typically do not notice any signs or symptoms. However, a doctor may still be able to detect early stage cervical cancer through screening tests. This is why regular cervical screening is so important.
Signs and symptoms of cervical cancer usually only occur once cancer has grown in size or has spread to nearby tissues. At this stage, the
- abnormal vaginal bleeding, which may include:
- bleeding after menopause
- periods that are longer or heavier than normal
- unusual vaginal discharge, which may contain some blood
- pain during sex
- pain in the pelvic region
The above signs and symptoms can also be due to conditions other than cervical cancer. However, anyone who experiences one or more of these symptoms should contact a doctor for a cervical exam.
Below are some preventive measures people can take to help reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer.
Getting an HPV vaccine may protect against the types of HPV associated with cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva.
Regular screening can help detect precancerous cervical cells. These are abnormal cervical cells that are not yet cancerous but have the potential to become cancerous if left untreated. Detecting and treating these cells can help prevent cervical cancer in some cases.
Regular screening also helps to detect early stage cervical cancers. Treating cervical cancer in its early stages can help improve a person’s outlook.
Changing sexual behaviors
In some cases, changing certain sexual behaviors may help reduce the risk of HPV. Potential changes include:
- avoiding sex, or avoiding sex with multiple partners
- using condoms during sex
- receiving regular testing for STIs
There is no guarantee that making the above changes will prevent cervical cancer, but they may reduce a person’s risk.
No matter how long a person has smoked, quitting smoking and tobacco use may help reduce their risk of cancer, including cancer of the cervix.
Thanks to regular screening, doctors can detect and treat cervical precancer and cancer earlier. Advances in treatments are also improving the outlook for people with the disease.
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The most common types of cervical cancer are not hereditary. HPV causes most cases of cervical cancer. A person typically acquires HPV through sexual contact with someone who carries the virus.
However, some very rare forms of cervical cancer may have a genetic component. Changes to the DICER1 gene or STK11 gene may increase a person’s risk of developing the disease. Anyone with a family history of cervical cancer related to genetics should speak with a doctor about screening.
Regular screening for cervical cancer can help doctors detect and treat precancerous cervical cells, which may help prevent the cells from developing into cancer. Regular screening also allows doctors to detect early stage cervical cancer. This is important since treating cancer in its early stages is associated with better outcomes.