Sexual behavior, venereal diseases, hygiene practices, and invasive cervical cancer in a high-risk population

Cancer. 1990 Jan 15;65(2):380-6. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19900115)65:2<380::aid-cncr2820650234>;2-9.


A case-control study of 759 women with invasive cervical cancer and 1430 controls in four Latin American countries evaluated risk in relation to sexual behavior, histories of specific venereal diseases, and hygiene practices. Early age at first sexual intercourse and increasing number of sexual partners were associated with significantly increased risks even after adjustment for their mutual effects. Risk increased to a twofold excess among women reporting first intercourse at 14 to 15 years of age compared with 20+ years. The number of steady sexual partners was a more important predictor of risk than the number of nonsteady partners, particularly before age 30, possibly reflecting the need for prolonged or repeated exposures to a transmissible agent, or different methods of protection against sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy. Reported frequency of intercourse was not generally associated with risk, except among women reporting increased frequencies before 20 years of age. Histories of gonorrhea or crab lice were associated with increased risk, but histories of other venereal diseases were not significant predictors. No consistently increased risks were detected for women reporting specific hygiene or douching habits, except the practice of washing the genitalia infrequently during menstruation. These results provide support for a period of increased susceptibility to carcinogens during adolescence, and suggest that this may be an important determinant of the high incidence of cervical cancer in Latin America.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • DNA Probes, HPV
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hygiene*
  • Latin America / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Parity
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Partners
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / complications*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Therapeutic Irrigation
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Vaginal Smears


  • DNA Probes, HPV