Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HPV, HIV, and chlamydia, can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. To help reduce the risk of developing cervical cancer, a person can take steps to prevent contracting an STI.
One example of helping to prevent contracting an STI is using a barrier method of protection during sexual activity.
This article looks at which STIs can increase a person’s risk of developing cervical cancer.
It also looks at what a person should do if they think they have contracted an STI, ways to prevent cervical cancer, and symptoms of cervical cancer.
The following STIs can increase a person’s risk of developing cervical cancer.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is a common STI that can cause abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. Persistent HPV infection can lead to the development of cervical cancer over time.
HIV weakens the immune system and makes individuals more susceptible to infections and certain types of cancer, including cervical cancer.
A 2019 article notes that people with HIV are at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer. This is because the weakened immune system cannot easily fight an HPV infection.
People with HIV are also more likely to have persistent HPV, which can lead to the development of cervical cancer over time.
There are two main groups of HPV — high risk and low risk. Low risk HPV rarely leads to cervical cancer. However, high risk types of HPV are more likely to develop into cervical cancer over time.
Not all cases of HPV will lead to cancer, and
Doctors recommend that people get the HPV vaccination to help prevent contracting the virus, which reduces the risk of developing HPV-related cancers.
What percentage of high risk HPV turns into cervical cancer?
Healthcare professionals estimate that around
If a person thinks they have contracted an STI, they should seek medical help.
Sexual health clinics will be able to test for STIs. A person can use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) online tool to find testing locations near them.
If a person receives an STI diagnosis, a healthcare professional will be able to provide them with accurate information about the specific STI, its symptoms, and treatment options.
A person should ensure that they follow the treatment recommendations. Treatment will depend on the specific STI, and may involve antibiotics, antiviral medication, or other forms of treatment.
It is also important to inform any previous sexual partners of their diagnosis.
After treatment, a person should use barrier methods of protection, such as condoms, during sexual activity.
Other factors can also increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. These
- Smoking: Those who smoke have a
higher riskof developing cervical cancer than those who do not smoke.
- Family history: People with a family history of cervical cancer are at an increased risk of developing the disease.
- Long-term use of birth control: People who have used oral contraceptives for
5 years or moremay have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer. However, it is important to note that the risk declines after a person stops using them.
These factors may increase the risk of developing cervical cancer, but they do not guarantee that a person will develop it.
There are several ways to prevent or lower the risk of developing cervical cancer:
- Get vaccinated: The HPV vaccine can
preventcertain HPV infections that can cause cervical cancer. Ideally, doctors recommend the vaccine for both males and females before they become sexually active. However, some people ages 27–45 can still get the vaccine after speaking with a healthcare professional.
- Use barrier methods of protection: Using condoms or other barrier methods during sexual activity can
help preventthe spread of HPV and other sexually transmitted infections that can increase the risk of cervical cancer.
- Get regular cervical cancer screenings: Regular cervical cancer screenings, including a Pap test and HPV test, can
detectabnormal changes in the cells of the cervix before cancer develops.
In the early stages, cervical cancer often does not cause any symptoms. However, as the cancer grows and spreads, it can cause a range of symptoms,
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding: This may include bleeding between periods, after sex, or after menopause.
- Pelvic pain: This may include pain during sex or pelvic pain that is unrelated to menstruation.
- Unusual vaginal discharge: This may include discharge that is watery, bloody, or has a foul odor.
- Pain during urination: This may indicate that the cancer has spread to the bladder.
- Leg pain or swelling: This may indicate that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
It is important to remember that other conditions can also cause these symptoms. Experiencing these symptoms does not necessarily mean a person has cervical cancer.
However, if someone experiences these symptoms, they should contact a healthcare professional immediately for further evaluation.
The following are frequently asked questions about STIs and cervical cancer.
Can HPV cause cancer in males?
While cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer associated with HPV infection, HPV can also cause other types of cancer,
- Anal cancer: This is a rare type of cancer that affects the anus, and HPV is the leading cause of anal cancer in both males and females.
- Penile cancer: HPV infection is also associated with an increased risk of penile cancer, a rare type affecting the penis.
- Oropharyngeal cancer: This type of head and neck cancer affects the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils.
Is cervical cancer an STI?
Cervical cancer is not an STI. However, certain types of sexually transmitted infections can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer.
Some STIs can increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. However, not all cases of cervical cancer develop as a result of STIs, and not all STI cases will lead to cervical cancer.
If a person is concerned that they have contracted an STI, they should seek medical help to undergo testing.
To help prevent cervical cancer as a result of STIs, a person should use barrier methods of protection during sexual activity and get the HPV vaccination. They should also attend regular cervical cancer screenings to detect abnormal changes in the cervix.