Cervical cancer: Is this common disease hereditary?

Cervical cancer occurs in the cells of the cervix. There are several causes of cervical cancer, but can it be inherited?
cervical cancer
Can cervical cancer be inherited? Let's find out. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Dr Sajjan Rajpurohit Updated: 17 Feb 2023, 14:43 pm IST
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People believe that there’s a higher prevalence of cervical cancer within families, despite the fact that there is no well-established model of a hereditary basis for the disease. Such familial grouping has previously been linked to common environmental exposure. However, later research comparing full and half siblings has shown that heritable risk factors outweigh the elements of the common environment.

As an example, a Swedish study of over 9000 siblings or half-siblings with cervical cancer or precancerous disease attributed 64 percent of the cases to genetics and only 36 percent to environmental exposures.

Genetic changes that may make individuals less likely to clear chronic human papillomavirus (HPV) infections and more prone to developing cervical cancer are undergoing investigations. Studies have found a correlation between cervical cancer and genetics.

Cervical cancer can be inherited

Cervical cancer is more likely to occur if you have a family member who has had it. As a result, certain genetic mutations can be passed down through generations, increasing the likelihood that someone in the family will develop it.

cervical cancer awareness
January is observed as the Cervical Cancer Awareness Month globally. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Other causes of cervical cancer

A family member who has been diagnosed with cervical cancer may wonder if it is hereditary. While cervical cancer can run in families, it is not always hereditary. In fact, cervical cancer is not hereditary in most cases.

HPV infection, smoking, and a weakened immune system are some of the risk factors for cervical cancer. Having a family member who has cervical cancer does not necessarily mean you will develop the disease if you have one or more of these risk factors for cervical cancer.

With your doctor, go through your risk of cervical cancer. He or she can help you understand your risks and make recommendations for reducing them.

Things people should know about cervical cancer

You need to understand what abnormal cervical cells mean if your healthcare provider tells you that you have them. Abnormal cervical cells are not cancerous, but if they are not treated, they may become cancerous.

There are many types of HPV, and not all of them cause cancer. The main factor for cervical cancer is the widespread virus HPV, which is transmitted through sex.

There are many people who contract HPV without realising it. It is a virus that lives in the skin and mucous membranes, but most people’s immune systems are able to clear the virus without problems. In some people, however, the virus does not go away and can cause changes in the cervix cells. These alterations could eventually result in cancer.

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Importance of safe sex
Safe sex can reduce risk of cervical cancer. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Cervical cancer cannot be contracted from casual contact such as hugging or shaking hands with someone who has it. HPV is only transmitted sexually.
The two most common varieties of cervical cancer are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma starts in the thin, flat cells lining the outer part of the cervix. Adenocarcinoma starts in the glandular cells lining the inner part of the cervix.

Safety precautions

To reduce your risk of cervical cancer, you can do the following:

  • Stop smoking
  • When having sex, use condoms
  • Don’t have too many sexual partners.
  • Make sure you get regular Pap smears

What tests can one perform to reduce the risk of cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is one of these cancers that increases with age. The best way to reduce your risk of cervical cancer is to get screened regularly. There are two main types of cervical cancer screenings: the Pap test and the HPV test.

A Pap test (or Pap smear) is used to detect cancerous cells on the cervix, while an HPV test detects the virus that causes these abnormal cells to develop. Both tests are usually covered by insurance plans.

Pap smear test for cervical cancer
Go for Pap smears every three years. Image courtesy: Shutterstock


Even if cervical cancer is hereditary, there are several ways to reduce your risk. First, take regular Pap tests and screenings. They can help you catch the disease early when it is most treatable. Second, stop smoking. Your risk of acquiring cancer, including cervical cancer, rises if you smoke. Third, use condoms during sex to help protect yourself from HPV, a virus that can cause cervical cancer.

The doctor can help you develop a plan to stay healthy and reduce your risk of cervical cancer if you are concerned about your risk.

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About the Author

Dr Sajjan Rajpurohit, Director-Medical Oncology, BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital ...Read More

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