Risk factors for cervical cell changes

Factors that increase the risk of cervical cell changes (dysplasia) that can cause an abnormal Pap test include:

  • Being infected with certain high-risk types of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • Being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Smoking or having a history of smoking.
  • Sexual intercourse with a partner who is infected with HPV.
  • Starting sexual intercourse at an early age (before age 18).
  • Having three or more sex partners in a lifetime.
  • Having sexual intercourse with someone who has had multiple sex partners.
  • Using birth control pills. Studies have shown that women who use birth control pills for many years have an increased risk of cervical cell changes.
  • Having an impaired immune system.
  • Having multiple full-term pregnancies (high parity).
  • Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) in utero, though this is rare.

Last Updated: January 5, 2009

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