A doctor holds a vial of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil. Picture: AP

London - Nearly half of women wrongly believe they are not at risk from the leading cause of cervical cancer if they are in a long-term relationship, a survey has found.

The British YouGov poll discovered that while almost all cervical cancer cases are caused by human papillomavirus, 48 percent think they are not vulnerable if they are settled in a monogamous partnership.

However, as symptoms can remain dormant for years and both men and women can be reinfected several times in their lives, being in a stable couple does not remove the risk.

The survey also found that 17 percent of respondents – and more than a quarter of those over 55 – believe promiscuity is the main risk factor for cervical cancer, while around seven percent think that if their partner receives an HPV diagnosis they have been unfaithful.

Vicki Bokor Ingram, of Roche Diagnostics UK & Ireland, a pharmaceutical company which commissioned the survey, described the misunderstandings as "dangerous", adding that the "stigma" around HPV needs to be tackled. Another misunderstanding highlighted by the survey is that 42 percent of women believe they do not need to be screened for cervical cancer if they have been vaccinated.

Most people will get some type of HPV in their life. While most of the time the group of viruses do not cause problems, some types can cause genital warts or abnormal changes in cells that can sometimes turn into cancer.

Daily Mail