Is Smoking A Major Risk Factor For Cervical Cancer In Women?
- 6 mins read
- Health Conditions
- Written by: Dr. Pramod Mane
By now you already know that the primary cause of cervical cancer is the Human Papilloma Virus or HPV, a group of viruses that are transmitted from one person to another through sexual activity.
However, all strains of HPV do not cause cervical cancer. HPV-16 and HPV-18 are the strains that increase the risk of cervical cancer. Generally, our immune system destroys the virus but in cases of persistent infection, HPV raises the risk of developing cervical cancer.
To find out if you are at risk of cervical cancer, you can take our risk-assessment test here!
Smoking and cervical cancer risk
Though more research is needed to learn the exact manner in which smoking causes cervical cancer, smoking elevates the risk of cervical cancer, there are some theories that help us understand cervical cancer from smoking:
- One theory suggests that the cancer-causing chemicals present in tobacco smoke damage the DNA of the cells, thereby, leading to cervical cancer.
- On the other hand, some researchers believe that tobacco smoke can lower the immunity of an individual. Smoking reduces the number of white blood cells (the blood cells that fight against disease-causing germs) and hence lowers the body’s ability to fight off HPV infection. Long-standing cases of HPV infection aggravate the risk of cervical cancer.
- Another study suggests that when a person is exposed to nicotine for a long period, there may be some noticeable changes like an increase in the rate of multiplication of cells or even suppression of natural death of cells.
How to prevent cervical cancer if I smoke?
Let’s understand that the association between smoking and HPV cervical cancer cannot be denied. Though smoking is not a direct cause, the chemicals released during smoking act together with HPV infection to raise your susceptibility of getting cervical cancer from smoking.
Here are some self care tips for wellbeing to follow if you really love yourself and want to take care of your cervix.
Rule No.1-Stay Away From Smoking
Yes. That’s the simplest way of putting it out though it may sound too tough to follow.
The more you smoke, the greater is the risk of developing cervical cancer. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that smokers had a 50% higher risk of cervical cancer than non-smokers. Moreover, women who smoked more than 40 cigarettes a day for over four decades had increased their risk of cervical cancer by two folds.5
Rule No. 2-Stay Away From Those Who Smoke
Too hard to believe right? You need not necessarily be a smoker to be at risk of cervical cancer. Just being in the company of smokers or getting exposed to secondhand smoke is enough to make you more susceptible to cancerous changes in your cervix.
In an analysis, based on the assessment of over 3000 cases, it was found out that women who have an experience of passive smoking are at a 73% increased risk of cervical cancer than those who are non-exposed.6
Even the duration for which women are exposed to passive smoke matters. A study indicated that women exposed to three or more hours of second-hand smoke each day were at a three-fold risk of cervical cancer than those who were not exposed at all.
Other Rules to Prevent Cervical Cancer
If you follow Rule no. 1 and 2, consider yourself to be safe from the risk due to cigarette smoke. Here are a couple of other measures that you can take to prevent cervical cancer:
- Get your routine Pap tests done.
- Use birth control methods with minimal side effects like condoms.
- Eat a balanced diet for a robust immune system.
It is a well-known fact that cigarette smoking can wreak havoc on your overall health. In fact, did you know? smoking can affect your gut health too! The ill-effects of smoking do not limit themselves to the lungs but also increase the risk of cervical cancer.
Women who smoke are way more likely to develop cervical cancer than those who have not smoked at all. Passive smoking can also put you at a higher risk of cervical cancer. So, the only responsible way of preventing cervical cancer would be quitting smoking altogether. Talk to your doctor if you need help in the cessation of smoking!
1. Okunade K. S. (2020). Human papillomavirus and cervical cancer. Journal of obstetrics and gynaecology : the journal of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 40(5), 602–608. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443615.2019.1634030
2. Ono A, Nakagawa M, Ikuta E, Watanabe Y, Koshiyama M. Relationship between tobacco smoking and cervical cancer. Women Health Open J. 2019; 5(1): 19-21. http://dx.doi.org/10.17140/WHOJ-5-133
3. Sopori M. (2002). Effects of cigarette smoke on the immune system. Nature reviews. Immunology, 2(5), 372–377. https://doi.org/10.1038/nri803
4. Fonseca-Moutinho J. A. (2011). Smoking and cervical cancer. ISRN obstetrics and gynecology, 2011, 847684. https://doi.org/10.5402/2011/847684
5. Brinton LA, Schairer C, Haenszel W, et al. Cigarette Smoking and Invasive Cervical Cancer. JAMA. 1986;255(23):3265–3269. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370230071033 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/404868
6. Zeng, X. T., Xiong, P. A., Wang, F., Li, C. Y., Yao, J., & Guo, Y. (2012). Passive smoking and cervical cancer risk: a meta-analysis based on 3,230 cases and 2,982 controls. Asian Pacific journal of cancer prevention : APJCP, 13(6), 2687–2693. https://doi.org/10.7314/apjcp.2012.13.6.2687
7. Slattery, M. L., Robison, L. M., Schuman, K. L., French, T. K., Abbott, T. M., Overall, J. C., Jr, & Gardner, J. W. (1989). Cigarette smoking and exposure to passive smoke are risk factors for cervical cancer. JAMA, 261(11), 1593–1598. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2918652/