Cervical cancer in virgins | Cancer Research UK
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Cervical cancer in virgins

Can you get cervical cancer if you are a virgin and have never had sex?

It is very unlikely that you would get cervical cancer if you are a virgin. But we do not know for sure if this completely protects you. There are risk factors for developing changes in the cervix that can lead to cancer, or for cervical cancer itself. Being sexually active from a young age is a well known risk factor.

A study done in 1950 found that woman who married before the age of 20 had twice the risk of developing cervical cancer than those who married later. Another study done in 1952 of 13,000 nuns found no cases of cervical cancer. These studies and other much more recent studies, all indicate that women are more at risk of developing cervical cancer once they have become sexually active.

The reason for this increased risk is mainly because you can catch a virus called HPV during sex with someone who is infected. HPV stands for human papilloma virus. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer. It is hardly ever found in the cervix of women who have never had sex.

There are other risk factors that will increase your risk of cervical cancer, including

  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Having a weakened immune system

There is more information about these risk factors for cervical cancer in our cervical cancer section.

HPV is found in many women if they are tested, but it tends to disappear without treatment in most cases. There are many types of HPV virus. And only a few can increase your risk of developing cervical cancer. These few are known as high risk strains of HPV. Even if you are found to be carrying one of the high risk types, it does not mean that you will get cervical cancer. There are other factors involved. And you do not have to have had a lot of sexual partners to catch this virus. If you have never had sex with anyone else, but your partner has, then they may be carrying it and can pass it on to you.

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Updated: 10 June 2014