Early Sex Doubles Cervical Cancer Risk
Earlier HPV infection gives more time to do damage
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2009 5:00 AM CST
Women who had sex earlier may have been infected with HPV earlier, "giving the virus more time to produce the long sequence of events that are needed for cancer development," the lead researcher said,   (Shutter Stock)

(Newser) – Having sex at an early age can double a woman's risk of developing cervical cancer, according to new research. Scientists investigating the link between poverty and the cancer found that women from poorer backgrounds began having sex an average of four years earlier than their more affluent counterparts, the BBC reports.

Rates of infection with human papillomavirus, which is believed to cause almost all cases of cervical cancer, were constant across all the groups studied. Earlier infection with HPV gives the virus more time to do the damage that leads to cancer, the researchers say. The increased risk wasn't limited to teens, the study found, with women who first had sex at 20 being at a higher risk than women who first had sex at 25.