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Causes of cancer of the cervix

The progression to cancer of the Cervix
The progression to cancer of the Cervix

The predisposing factors seem to suggest an infective (transmissible) agent to be linked to causation and the human papilloma virus (HPV)  is the agent that has been most firmly implicated; thie likelihood of infection is linked with the number of sexual partners. It is certainly not the case that infection with this agent is always carcinogenic, but it is a ‘trigger’ on the steps to carcinogenesis. The newly available HPV vaccination programme (aimed at teenage girls) is specifically aimed at reducing the HPV infection promotion of cervical cancer.

Other factors that have been related to a higher incidence of the disease are smoking and immunosuppression (e.g. renal transplant recipients have a higher risk).

Once the cancerous changes occur, there is a pre-invasive stage (CIN) which precedes the more dangerous invasive cancer stage (when the cancer cells have breached the basement epithelium of the cervix and hence gained access to blood vessels/potential routes of spread). This pre-invasive stage can last for years and it is for this reason that the screening programme is so effective because detection at this stage allows pre-emptive cure of the whole condition.

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