UP TO 90% of women do not realise a sexually-transmitted virus was the most common cause of cervical cancer.
The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is spread widely through sexual interaction but new research from Queensland University of Technology has found most women thought cervical cancer was largely caused by genetic factors.
QUT PhD researcher Leane Christie said in reality HPV was, by far, the most common cause.
"Many women also didn't know that even if they had had one sexual partner their entire life, they could still contract the infection.
"It is as common as it is contagious; it's the common cold of sexual activity and it can cause cervical cancer."
Most will not develop symptoms from HPV with it being destroyed by the body's immune system within two years, but in some cases, sufferers may develop genital warts.
Ms Christie said the HPV vaccine protected against two common strains of the virus, but vaccinated women remained vulnerable to 20 other strains.
She said regular pap smears were needed to spot any abnormal cells before the cancer developed.
Ms Christie interviewed more than 1200 women to find out what they knew about HPV.