The human papillomavirus (HPV) viruses that cause cervical cancer are spread through vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner. In other words, HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Whether or not genital warts are present, the HPV virus is highly contagious. It can even be contracted by skin-to-skin contact in the absence of vaginal intercourse or anal sex. Some researchers hypothesize that genital HPV can be spread to the oral cavity. Oral sex alone does not cause cervical cancer but can cause some cases of throat and laryngeal cancer

Because HPV causes most kinds of cervical cancer, the risk factors for cervical cancer are the same as those for HPV:

  • Young age of first intercourse
  • High number of sex partners
  • Sex with a man whose partner had cervical cancer
  • Smoking
  • Compromised immune system caused by HIV-positive status, organ transplant, or chronic use of corticosteroids such as prednisone
  • Mother's use of diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy
  • General lifestyle factors, such as poor nutrition