Diet and cervical cancer: what is the link?

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Cervical cancer is one of the most common gynecological cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 14,000 people will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States in 2022.

Up to 99.7% of cervical cancer cases result from human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. This viral infection causes abnormal changes in the cervix, leading to development of this form of cancer.

Doctors can diagnose cervical cancer during routine health exams such as Pap smears and HPV test. The condition is often asymptomatic.

In addition to regular Pap smears and HPV tests, there are three HPV vaccines which protect against certain strains of HPV known to cause cervical cancer.

Other factors that affecting HPV progression to cervical cancer includes smoking, exposure to environmental toxins, co-infection with sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, and diet and nutrition.

Diet and nutrition play a role in the development of cervical cancer.

In fact, proper nutrition helps optimize the immune system, which in turn eliminates HPV and helps the body react against cancerous tumors.

However, research on the role of diet and nutrition in preventing or reducing the risk of developing cervical cancer has focused on antioxidant nutrients and eating habits that lessen the impact of HPV.

Diets with high inflammatory potential – much like the Western-style diet – are associated with the development of cervical cancer, especially in women who have HPV infection and a sedentary lifestyle.

A Western diet – which is generally high in saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium – would increase chronic inflammation and makes controlling HPV infections more difficult. Persistent HPV infection leads to the development of cervical cancer.

On the other hand, adhering to a Mediterranean-style diet—high in fruits, vegetables, peas or beans, healthy fats, and fish— can lead to a lower risk of HPV infection and cervical cancer.

The taking of antioxidants, as the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, as well as vitamins C, E and A can inhibit the development of cervical cancer, especially in smokers.

Additionally, nutrients like folate, Vitamin D, and lycopene can halt the progression of HPV to cervical cancer.

Each of these antioxidant nutrients plays various protective and overlapping roles during the developmental stages of cervical cancer.

Therefore, it is best to focus on overall eating habits and not just individual nutrients.

A observation A study of nearly 300,000 women suggests that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, rich in various antioxidant nutrients, is associated with a reduced risk of cervical cancer.

A daily increase of 100 grams (g) of fruit, the equivalent of one cup of cranberries, was associated with a reduced risk of cervical cancer. Similarly, a daily increase of 100 g of vegetables has a similar effect.

Adopt a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet reduced risk of inflammation and cancer of the cervix.

A person could eat more:

  • fruits and vegetables, emphasizing a variety of colors and textures
  • complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain rice, pasta, bread, and couscous
  • nuts, seeds, and olive oils, which are healthy, unsaturated fats, to replace saturated and trans fats
  • herbs and spices, such as onion and garlic, while limiting added sodium
  • low-fat dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • legumes such as peas, lentils, and beans, including chickpeas and kidney beans

In addition to maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet, daily use of a multivitamin supplement in women with HPV is associated with less severe HPV infection and a lower risk of progression to cervical cancer.

Foods with high inflammatory potential are associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer.

The “fast food culture” of the Western diet, characterized by processed foods low in dietary fiber and high in added sugars, increases inflammation and is implied in the development of cancer.

So, foods to limit or avoid include:

  • foods high in added sugar
  • processed meats such as deli meats
  • red meats
  • foods high in saturated and trans fats

The excessive consumption of added sugars from sugary drinks, dairy desserts and table sugar significantly increased cancer risk in a 10-year observational study in over 100,000 people.

Red meats such as veal, pork and lamb in an amount of 101-200 g per day are associated with an increased risk of cancer development in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women.

Limit the consumption of of animal origin and industrially produced sources of saturated and trans fats, which research has shown promote the growth of cancerous tumors.

Natural, plant-based sources of saturated and trans fats did not negatively impact cancer risk.

Pro-inflammatory foods upset the balance “good” bacteria living in the intestine, induce inflammation and increase the risk of cancer.

There are several natural home remedies that promise to treat or cure cervical cancer without medical intervention.

Some natural practices – like drinking green tea — may provide benefits to someone with cervical cancer. However, these do not replace the need for proper medical intervention and treatment.

Despite emerging research in medicinal herbs for the treatment of cervical cancer, further investigation into these anti-cancer plants, their active compounds and safe doses are needed.

Always consult your medical oncology team to determine the best treatment options.

Cervical cancer is one of the most common gynecological cancers. HPV infection causes 99.7% of cases.

There is a clear link between diet and nutrition, the progression of HPV infection and the later development of cervical cancer.

The fast-food culture of the Western diet—characterized by processed foods, red meats, low dietary fiber, and high in added sugar—is pro-inflammatory and associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer of the uterus.

Research suggests that antioxidant nutrients such as carotenoids, vitamins A, C, E, D and folate – all found primarily in a Mediterranean-type diet – can prevent or reduce HPV infection and, by extension, the development of cervical cancer.

Limit pro-inflammatory foods and increase fruits and vegetables, which are rich in antioxidant nutrients, to reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

Avoid replacing proper medical intervention and treatment with natural home remedies to manage cervical cancer. Consult your medical oncology team for the best treatment options.

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