Cervical cancer

Graphic of cervical cancer statisticsHow diet, nutrition and physical activity affect cervical cancer risk. In total, we analysed 12 cervical cancer studies from around the world, covering nearly 9 million adults and over 5,400 cases.

The cervix is the neck of the womb. The part of the cervix inside the cervical canal is called the endocervix. The part on the outside is the ectocervix. Most cervical cancers start where these two parts meet.

> Find the latest cervical cancer statistics

What causes cervical cancer?

Our Expert Panel has reviewed the evidence on diet, weight, physical activity and the risk of cervical cancer.

There is some evidence that:

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Other causes of cervical cancer

In addition to the findings on diet, nutrition and physical activity outlined above, other established causes of cervical cancer include:

Life events

Early sexual experience and a relatively high number of sexual partners increase the risk and severity of HPV infection and may be seen as indirect causes of cervical cancer.


Smoking tobacco increases the risk of cervical cancer. It is estimated that two per cent of deaths from cervical cancer worldwide are attributable to smoking tobacco. The effect of smoking tobacco is independent to that of viral infection.

Infectious agents

Infection with a carcinogenic HPV type is a necessary, but not sufficient, cause of cervical cancer. Virtually all cervical cancers are associated with a carcinogenic HPV type. Women become susceptible to developing cervical cancer following infection with a carcinogenic HPV type, but other environmental factors are required for the cancer to develop.


Dethylstilboestrol (a synthetic oestrogen, now withdrawn) used by women during pregnancy is a cause of vaginal and cervical clear-cell adenocarcinoma in their daughters.

Emerging research on cervical cancer

We fund research on cervical cancer through our grant programme. Read about the latest findings and ongoing projects in our database of projects.

Diet and Cancer Report 2018

In 2018, World Cancer Research Fund International published Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective on behalf of AICR, WCRF and WKOF. This was the third in our series of major reports looking at the many ways in which our diets, and how active we are, affect our cancer risk. You can find out much more about cervical cancer by downloading a pdf of the relevant chapter in the 2018 report. Please note, however, that this webpage may have been updated since the report was published.