Quit the Cigs
They’ve garnered the nickname “cancer sticks” for their part in lung and throat cancers, but smoking cigarettes has an effect on cervical cancer as well. “Once you’re infected with HPV [human papillomavirus], smoking more than doubles your risk of not beating the disease on your own,” says Mark Einstein, M.D., director of clinical research at Montefiore Medical Center and Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
Smoking won’t give you HPV, but suck down more than 10 cigarettes a day and you can double your risk for advanced precancerous cells once you have the disease. Plus, it can speed up the cancerous growth.
Get the Shot
If you’re under 26, schedule an appointment to get an HPV vaccine. Gardasil provides protection against the four most common strains of the virus: HPV types 6 and 11, which cause genital warts, and 16 and 18, which cause about 75 percent of cervical cancers. The newer vaccine, Cervarix, protects against the two most common HPV strains (16 and 18).
The shot is recommended for girls as young as 9 or 10, because it works best before you’ve had any sort of sexual contact. The vaccine doesn’t protect against HPV strains you’ve already contracted, so most doctors won’t administer it to women over 26 because they assume most are already sexually active.
Quit the Cigs