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Gynecologic Cancer Causes & Risk Factors


We don't always know what exactly causes gynecologic cancers. We do know that there are certain risk factors that increase your risk of getting cancer, though some women get gynecologic cancer without having any risk factors.

Certain risk factors are beyond a woman's control, like age and family history. However, there are certain risk factors that are in your power to control. Talk to our cancer team about gynecologic cancer prevention and regular screenings.

Common risk factors:

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. This is a sexually transmitted virus that can progress into cervical cancer. Talk to your doctor about steps you can take to prevent HPV.
  • Exposure to DES. DES is a synthetic estrogen doctors prescribed to women before 1971 to prevent miscarriage. However, it caused health risks to the mother and unborn child.
  • Smoking. Tobacco is strongly linked to gynecologic cancer.
  • HIV/AIDS infection. If you are HIV-positive or have AIDS, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to reduce your risk for gynecologic caner.
  • Age. The risk is greater between 50—60 years of age.
  • Obesity. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables and low in fat, plus regular exercise, can keep your weight under control and lower your risk for cancer.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a chronic endocrine disorder.
  • Endometrial polyps, abnormal growths on the lining of your uterus.
  • Never being pregnant.
  • More menstrual periods. If you began menstruating early in life and/or stopped at a later age, you may have an increased risk of gynecologic cancer.
  • Diabetes
  • Family history, especially in a mother, sister or daughter
  • Prior cancer
  • Certain genetic mutations