1:12pm 25/01/2022
Cervical health awareness

By Soh Yih Harng

The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus. Cervical cancer develops when normal cells in the cervix transform into abnormal cells and grow rapidly and uncontrollably.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide and the fourth leading cause of cancer death.

In 2020, cervical cancer caused 604,000 new cancer cases and 342,000 deaths worldwide (Sung et al., 2021).

In Malaysia, Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis among women. The risk over a lifetime is one in 144.

The Chinese have the highest rate of occurrence, followed by Indians and Malays.

A total of 41% of cervical cancer were detected at a late stage (III & IV) (Azizah et al., 2019).

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for more than 90% of cervical cancer cases. However, most people who have had HPV infections do not develop cervical cancer.

Other risk factors include smoking, birth control pills, beginning sex at a young age, multi pregnancy and multiple sexual partners.

Cervical cell screening for cervical pre-cancer using Papanicolaou smears (Pap smears) has significantly lowered the number of cases and deaths from cervical cancer.

When cervical cancer is detected and treated early, most prognoses are well.

Cervical cancer may not exhibit any symptoms at first. When it does cause symptoms, it can result in vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause, in between menstrual cycles, and after sexual intercourse.

Non-cancer conditions can also cause these symptoms. However, if you experience vaginal bleeding during these times, please consult the doctor as early as possible.

Pap smears combined with HPV vaccination and a nutrition diet can reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

According to World Cancer Research Fund Report in 2018, overweight might increase the risk of cervical cancer. Being physically active and practicing a healthy lifestyle are recommended.

Limit consumption of energy-dense/high-energy food, including deep-fried foods, fast food, other processed foods, red meats, chips, snacks, dipping sauces, and limit sugar or high-calorie drinks including sweetened juices and alcohol.

On the other hand, high-fiber fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, legumes, and cereals reduce cervical cancer risk (Molina-Montes et al., 2021).

Current research is addressing nutritional influences on HPV infection and cervical cancer progression.

A healthy diet plays an essential role in preventing cervical cancer and protecting against human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

High-fiber foods, including wholemeal grains, fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants, will potentially help prevent cervical cancer.


1. Azizah, A., Hashimah, B., Nirmal, K., Siti Zubaidah, A., Puteri, N., Nabihah, A., . . . Sharifah, S. (2019). Malaysia National cancer registry report (MNCR).

2. Molina-Montes, E., Ubago-Guisado, E., Petrova, D., Amiano, P., Chirlaque, M.-D., Agudo, A., & Sánchez, M.-J. (2021). The Role of Diet, Alcohol, BMI, and Physical Activity in Cancer Mortality: Summary Findings of the EPIC Study. Nutrients, 13(12), 4293. Retrieved from

3. Sung, H., Ferlay, J., Siegel, R. L., Laversanne, M., Soerjomataram, I., Jemal, A., & Bray, F. (2021). Global Cancer Statistics 2020: GLOBOCAN Estimates of Incidence and Mortality Worldwide for 36 Cancers in 185 Countries. CA Cancer J Clin, 71(3), 209-249. doi:10.3322/caac.21660

(Dr Soh Yih Harng is DrPH Candidate, Universiti Malaya and Ten Outstanding Young Malaysians (TOYM) 2019.)



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