Smokers at increased risk of cervical cancer

Tuesday 18 August, 2009

INDIGENOUS WOMEN URGED TO HAVE PAP TESTS

Many of us are aware smoking causes lung cancer, what is not commonly known is that smoking increases your risk of developing cancer of the cervix.

Women who smoke have a 60% greater risk of developing cervical cancer than non-smokers.

Recent figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicated 49% of Indigenous women smoke*, which places many Indigenous women at higher risk of developing the deadly disease.

High-risk types of the human papilloma virus (HPV), the virus which causes cervical cancer, must be present in the cervix to increase a smoker's risk. This is highly probable as more than half of all Australian women will be exposed to high-risk HPV in their lifetime.

PapScreen Victoria is urging all Indigenous women to have regular 2-yearly Pap tests, as the quick and simple screening test is the best form of protection against developing cervical cancer.

Women should begin having Pap tests at the age of 18 or two years after commencing sexual activity, whichever comes later. This is because HPV is a sexually transmitted virus and Pap tests detect abnormal cell changes caused by HPV.

Manager of PapScreen Victoria, Kate Broun, is encouraging all Indigenous women, to have regular two-yearly Pap tests at their local Aboriginal health service or medical clinic.

"HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection. For most women HPV clears naturally from the body over a one to two year period, however, the risk of this not happening is considerably higher in women who smoke.

"Women who smoke place themselves at higher risk of developing cervical cancer as the cancer causing chemicals from tobacco smoke damage the DNA in the cervical cells. For women who smoke, HPV infections develop at a much faster rate than non-smokers," added Ms Broun.

WOMEN WHO HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT CERVICAL CANCER, PAP TESTS OR HPV CAN RING THE CANCER COUNCIL HELPLINE ON 13 11 20 OR VISIT WWW.PAPSCREEN.ORG.AU.

WOMEN WHO WANT TO QUIT CAN RING THE QUITLINE ON 13 78 48.


* Tobacco Smoking in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (2004-05 49), Australian Bureau of Statistics, 29 July 2009.