New Angle on Cervical Cancer Risks

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

NEW Right Angle Tree_sFirst, you’ve gotten a key to cervical cancer awareness. Cervical cancer is preventable, and the best preventative strategy is to combine regular cervical screening with HPV vaccination. What else is new about cervical cancer?

HPV is not the only cause.

Although HPV is the major culprit of cervical cancer, a large number of women infected with HPV have never developed cervical cancer. So what additional factors contribute to the progression of a pre-cancerous lesion to invasive cancer?

  • Genetic factor
  • Smoking
  • Oral contraceptive use
  • Hormone replacement (may modulate the immune response to HPV)
  • Immune suppression

Obviously, cervical cancer development is a multi-factorial process and involves genetic, environmental, hormonal and immunological factors in addition to HPV. Of note, smoking appears to be the most significant environmental risk factor.

The immune system is a protector, but not danger-proof.

A wealth of research information reveals that a weakened immune system plays a role in cervical cancer, because -

  • Women with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection are subjected to a higher incidence of cervical cancer.
  • HPV-infected individuals with smoking history are susceptible to cervical cancer.
  • Persistence of HPV infection, in the presence of altered or suppressed immune system, can increase the incidence of cervical cancer.

You might wonder how cancer immunity works. It lies on two folds: one is so-called cancer immune surveillance, and the other, cancer immune escape. Simply speaking, cancer immune surveillance, the immune response, functions like a security camera that can identify a dangerous signal (e.g. bacteria, pathogen, or cancerous cells), in conjunction with groups of helpers (i.e. T cells) and warriors (i.e. Natural Killer cells) that can fight off or destroy cancer cells.

On the other hand, cancer immune escape implies that cancer behaves like a sneaky criminal using various means to get around your immune system, i.e. to escape cancer immune surveillance. As a result, the immune system is unable to eliminate cancerous cells, and cancer growth becomes non-stop. So, can you see what a critical role the immune system plays in fighting the cancer war?

Final words on HOPE and ACTION:

While we anticipate potential future therapy to stop cancer immune escape, we can do our best to strengthen cancer immune surveillance so that it doesn’t allow cancer to get out of control.

How to boost the immune system? See 25 Unbeatable Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System


Image Credit: By fPat