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.
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