Case-control studies of cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia grade III (CIN III) and of invasive cervical cancer were carried out in Spain and Colombia to assess the relationship between cervical cancer and 6 common sexually transmitted agents (STAs). The CIN-III studies included 525 cases and 512 controls matched for age and for the place of recruitment; the invasive-cancer studies included 373 histologically confirmed cases of squamous-cell carcinoma and 387 age-stratified controls selected randomly from the populations that generated the cases. Antibodies to Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Treponema pallidum, herpes simplex virus type II (HSV-2) and cytomegalovirus (CMV) were tested in 88% of the women. Cervical scrapes were examined for HPV DNA in 63% of the women using a polymerase-chain-reaction assay (PCR). Among controls, the highest antibody prevalence was to CMV (96.5%), followed by HSV-2 (31.4%) and C. trachomatis (23.3%). For all STAs, the sero-prevalence was markedly higher in Colombia than in Spain both for cases and for controls. After adjustment for the presence of HPV DNA, C. trachomatis was the only STA associated with CIN III in both countries; Spain and Colombia. In both countries, the risk of CIN III increased with increasing of C. trachomatis antibody titers. Among Spanish women, an increase in risk of invasive carcinoma was found for those with antibodies to N. gonorrhoeae; those with antibodies to HSV-2 and those with antibodies to C. trachomatis. These associations were present only in HPV-DNA-negative women. Among HPV-DNA-positive women, none of the STAs considered were associated with cervical neoplasia. Our findings could be interpreted as indicating that past infections with HSV-2, N. gonorrhoeae and C. trachomatis are surrogate markers of HPV, but because HPV DNA may have escaped detection, we cannot exclude that these STAs are also of separate etiological significance.