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Early sex increases risk of cervical cancer

25 June 2012, 16:08

Jos - Dr Nenfa Solomon, a doctor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), has said that exposure to sex early in life could increase the risk of cervical cancer.  

``Having sex before the age of 18 increases the risk of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is the causative factor for cervical cancer.

``Immature cells seem to be susceptible to it,” Solomon said in Jos on Monday. 

Solomon said that cervical cancer was among the most common cancers that affect a woman’s reproductive organ, stressing that the HPV plays a major role in causing most of the cases of the cancer. 

``When a woman is exposed to HPV, her immune typically prevents the virus from doing harm.

``However, in a small group of women, the virus survives for years before it eventually converts some cells on the surface of the cervix into cancer cells.’’  

According to Solomon, cancer in general begins when healthy cells acquire a genetic mutation that turns them into abnormal cells. 

He said there were two types of cervical cancer, one of which is squamous cell carcinoma that begins in the thin, flat cells that line the bottom of the cervix. 

``That type accounts for 80 to 90 per cent of cervical cancer in women. 

``There is also the Adeno carcinomas that occur in the glandular cells that line the upper portion of the cervix. This type makes up to 10 to 20 per cent of cervical cancer.''

Solomon revealed that early cervical cancer generally produced no signs and symptoms, stressing that such was why regular pap screening was important. 

``The Pap test detects abnormal cell growth or formation in the cervix.’’  

He said that as the cancer developed, some of the symptoms that might be experienced may include vaginal bleeding after intercourse. 

Other symptoms, he said, included watery and bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy and have a foul smell.

In some cases, he said, pelvic pain as well as pain during intercourse, could also be experienced. 

Solomon stated that some risk factors such as genetic make-up such as a weak immune system, environment or life style choices, such as early sexual activities and cigarette smoking, could increase the chances of developing cancer. 

He disclosed that the treatment to cervical cancer was confined to the outside layer of the cervix. 

“Procedures to remove noninvasive cancer include laser surgery as well as hysterectomy which is a major surgery that involves the removal of the cancerous and pre-cancerous areas in the cervix and uterus.’’ 

The expert advised women to seek preventive measures to reduce the risk of cervical cancer. 

“I will suggest that a women should delay first intercourse, have fewer sex partners, avoid smoking and get a HPV vaccine and regular Pap test.’’


Tags cancer

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