Multiple Sexual Partners as a Potential Independent Risk Factor for Cervical Cancer: a Meta-analysis of Epidemiological Studies

Asian Pac J Cancer Prev. 2015;16(9):3893-900. doi: 10.7314/apjcp.2015.16.9.3893.


It's known that having multiple sexual partners is one of the risk factors of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection which is a major cause of cervical cancer. However, it is not clear whether the number of sexual partners is an independent risk factor for cervical cancer. We identified relevant studies by searching the databases of MEDLINE, PubMed and ScienceDirect published in English from January 1980 to January 2014. We analyzed those studies by combining the study-specific odds ratios (ORs) using random-effects models. Forty-one studies were included in this meta-analysis. We observed that the number of sexual partners was associated with the occurrence of non-malignant cervical disease (OR=1.82, 95%CI 1.63-2.00) and invasive cervical carcinoma (OR=1.77, 95%CI 1.50-2.05). Subgroup analyses revealed that the association remained significant after controlling for HPV infection (OR=1.52, 95%CI 1.21-1.83 for non-malignant disease; OR=1.53, 95%CI 1.30- 1.76 for invasive cervical carcinoma). We found that there was a non-linear relation of the number of sexual partners with both non-malignant cervical disease and invasive cervical carcinoma. The risk of both malignant and non-malignant disease is relatively stable in women with more than 4-7 sexual partners. Furthermore, the frequency-risk of disease remained significant after controlling for HPV infection.The study suggested that having multiple sexual partners, with or without HPV infection, is a potential risk factor of cervical cancer.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Epidemiologic Studies*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / etiology*