December 21, 2009
Having sex at an early age can double the risk of developing cervical cancer, a study of 20,000 women suggests.
The investigation into why poorer women have a higher risk of the disease found they tended to have sex about four years earlier than more affluent women.
Previously, it had been thought the disparity was the result of low screening uptake in poorer areas.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer findings are published in the British Journal of Cancer.
Although the difference in cervical cancer incidence between rich and poor – across the world – had been noted for many years, it was not clear why this is the case.
Especially as rates of infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) – the sexually transmitted infection linked with the vast majority of cervical cancers – seemed to be similar across all groups.
The study confirmed that the higher rates of cervical cancer were not linked to higher HPV levels.