Is There a Link Between Chlamydia and Cervical Cancer?

Chlamydia is the most common known sexually transmitted disease in the US, with more than one million new cases reported in 2011. This infection affects both women and men and is transmitted through sexual contact.

In many cases, chlamydia does not come with visible symptoms, but can still be easily treated with antibiotics.

In the case that you do not treat chlamydia, this can lead to various infections and complications. In women, chlamydia is known to damage the fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which in return can lead to infertility, pain and damage of all the reproductive organs.

For men, chlamydia rarely represents symptoms, but can spread to the testes and also make the person infertile.

Recently, regular checkups do not include chlamydia screening. As a result to this, most people are diagnosed when the infection has already spread in their system and cannot be properly treated by the simple antibiotics therapy. This is very unfortunate since, according to a new study, untreated chlamydia infections can turn into chronic infections, which can result in cancer and genetic mutations.

Chlamydia Leads to Cancer

The bacterium chlamydia lives inside a human cell. These bacteria, like any other disease causing agents, can alter the processes in the cells once they get access to them. Furthermore, this altering can lead to complete blockage of the immune system, by which the immune system stops attacking them and no longer protects the body from the infections.

As soon as bacteria alter the cellular processes, every infected healthy cell kills itself to reduce further infection. This process is called apoptosis. However, in some cases, chlamydia bacteria can even alter this process and stop the cells from killing themselves.

When a cell is infected for a lengthy period of time, apoptosis is also hindered.

What happens then?

Cells start growing rapidly and uncontrollably and spread the infection to the healthy cells. Now you have a huge amount of infected and mutated cells that spread and do not die to prevent the infection or any other danger to the organism.

There you have it – the hallmark of cancer. This is how uncontrollable growth of altered cells due to chlamydia can become deadly to the body of the infected person. Such incidences are the cause of increased likelihood and risk of a cervical cancer.

Researchers Link Cervical Cancer to Chlamydia Infection

According to researchers, [1] women who were previously infected by chlamydia infection are at increased risk of developing cervical cancer. More specifically, they are 2.2 times more likely to develop this condition than women who did not suffer from chlamydia in the past.

Furthermore, scientists also point out to the increased risk of cervical cancer in chlamydia patients. According to them, women infected with a specific strain of this bacterium are seven times more likely to develop this serious condition than others.

This strain is called serotype G.

In addition to this, they identify two other strains known to increase the risk of developing cervical cancer. Women infected with more strains of the bacteria are considered at highest risk of all.

Several researchers led by Dr Jorma Paavonen and Dr Tarja Antilla analyzed blood tests from chlamydia patients in Norway, Finland and Sweden. They took blood test results from 530 thousand women and focused on only 128 of them who developed cervical cancer in the year after donating the sample.

This research showed that cervical cancer is not only linked to the HPV infection, but to chlamydia, too.

Rate of Chlamydia Infection Soars Rapidly

The Public Health Laboratory Service reported that the number of people diagnosed with this condition has increased by an incredibly high percentage of 76% since the report back in 1995.

Between 1998 and 1999, there was an increase of 14%. The infection rate was highest in the city of London, counting 155 in 100 thousand men and 184 in 100 thousand women. However, some doctors believe that this number only lists 10% of all cases, since many people are unaware they are infected in the first place.

Chlamydia symptoms are usually not present until it the bacteria have done some severe damage, which is why the majority of infected individuals have no idea they have the condition. Because of this, women who do not get treatment in time can develop pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and ectopic pregnancy.

And according to recent research, also cervical cancer.

Prevention and Treatment

Cancer treatments should never be used to cure sexually transmitted infections that caused the disease in the first place, and so is the case with chlamydia. In such cases, controlling and treating the infection itself can prevent the cancer altogether.

If the person treats the infection in time, the cells are very unlikely to become cancerous. Therefore, cancer treatment is usually considered as the last option implemented in the advanced stages of STDs, where the infection already caused the creation of cancerous cells in the body.

This can all be prevented in cases where the infection is treated immediately or the person practices safe sex and takes care of their sexual health regularly.

According to the 2009 CDC report, over 84 thousand women were diagnosed with a type of gynecologic cancer, including uterine, ovarian or cervical cancer. Unfortunately, more than 27 thousand of these women actually died from the cancer, which could have been easily prevented if the infections were treated and eradicated in time.

Many still believe that the prevention of cells dying in the body and encouragement of cells growing is insufficient to implicate this infection when the cancer develops. However, seeing that uncontrolled growth of cells is the biggest known cause of cancer , this is probably the case.

At this point, researchers perform further, more advanced research to detect the exact link between cervical cancer and chlamydia. In the meantime, it is highly recommended that all sexually active women be tested regularly to make sure they have not been infected by an STD.


[1] Koskela P, Anttila T, Bjørge T, et al. Chlamydia trachomatis infection as a risk factor for invasive cervical cancer. Int J Cancer. 2000;85:35-39.


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