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The four lesser-known risks

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Many Airmen may have heard human papillomavirus (HPV) is a risk factor for cervical cancer, but they may not know that taking birth control pills can be yet another contributing factor.

While the best way to survive cervical cancer is to catch it early by screening regularly with a Papanicolaou (Pap) test, here are four lesser-known risk factors for the disease:

· Birth Control Pills
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), using birth control pills for five years or more can increase a person's risk for cervical cancer. However, the American Cancer Society stresses that the risk returns to normal about 10 years after the pills are stopped.

· Giving Birth to Three or More Children
Although experts can't pinpoint why this is a risk factor, the American Cancer Society's website explains a few theories:

 Studies have indicated hormonal changes during pregnancies could make a woman more receptive to HPV or developing cancer.
 Pregnancies might weaken a woman's immune system, also making her more susceptible to HPV infection or cancer development.

· HIV
According to the CDC, having HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, or another condition that makes it hard for the body to fight infection is a risk factor for developing cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society states that HIV also makes it more difficult for the body to fight off the HPV infection, which is a large risk factor for cervical cancer.

· Smoking
Women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer, according to the American Cancer Society website. This is because smoking exposes the body to cancer-causing toxins and elements that affect other organs, besides the lungs.

Above all else, remember to get regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer. They are a TRICARE-covered benefit, so take advantage of them.


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