A risk factor is any factor that is associated with an increased chance of developing a particular health condition, such as gynaecological cancer. There are different types of risk factors, some of which can be modified and some that cannot.
It should be noted that having one or more risk factors does not mean a woman will develop a gynaecological cancer. Many women have at least one risk factor but will never develop a gynaecological cancer, while others with a gynaecological cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a woman with a gynaecological cancer has a risk factor, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of her disease.
Although the causes of many gynaecological cancers are not fully understood, there are a number of factors associated with the risk of developing one or more types of gynaecological cancer. These risk factors include:
- increasing age
- having a strong family history
- identified gene mutations
- reproductive history, such as child-bearing
- exposure to hormones – produced by the body or taken as medication
- exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the womb
- viral infection such as human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- lifestyle factors such as smoking and those leading to excess body weight.
If you have any of these risk factors or are concerned about your risk for gynaecological cancers, please see your doctor.