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Cancer. 1986 Aug 15;58(4):935-41.

Sexual factors, venereal diseases, and the risk of intraepithelial and invasive cervical neoplasia.

Abstract

The relation between major indicators of sexual habits (age at first intercourse and total number of sexual partners), history of selected venereal diseases, and cervical neoplasia was investigated using data from a case-control study of 206 cases of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia compared with 206 age-matched outpatient controls, and of 327 cases of invasive cancer compared with 327 control subjects in hospital for acute conditions unrelated to any of the established or suspected risk factors for cervical cancer. The relative risks increased with decreasing age at first intercourse and increasing number of sexual partners both for intraepithelial and for invasive cancers. The effects of these two variables were independent, since they were only marginally affected by reciprocal adjustment, or by allowance for several other identified potential distorting factors. The negative association with age at first intercourse was particularly strong in the case of invasive cancers, with risk estimates over five-fold elevated for women reporting their first intercourse before age 18 compared with those aged over 22 years. This relation might be discussed in terms of multistage models of carcinogenesis, which predict that the incidence of epithelial carcinomas is a function of duration of exposure. In fact, when age was allowed for, the relative risks of cervical neoplasia were positively and strongly related with the total duration of the interval between age at diagnosis/interview and age at first intercourse. Clinical histories of several sexually transmitted diseases were positively associated with the risk of intraepithelial neoplasia. In particular, genital warts were reported by nine cases but no control subject. No such association, however, emerged for invasive carcinomas. Thus, the current findings confirm that, although intraepithelial neoplasia and invasive cervical cancer appear to share several important epidemiological features, the specific (infectious) agents implicated in dysplastic lesions probably differ to some extent from those causing invasive cancer.

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