Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is often the causative agent behind a diagnosis of genital warts or cervical cancer. Aside from pharmaceuticals, doctors have suggested dietary supplements and vitamins as an alternative therapy due to their protective role in treating and preventing HPV-related diseases. However, consult with a physician before using dietary modification to treat viral infections.
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Human Papilloma Virus
HPV infects the skin or mucous membranes. There are nearly 200 types of HPV that cause no symptoms in most people, even though some types can cause warts while others can induce cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina and anus in women, or cancers of the anus and penis in men. Many strains of HPV are often transmitted through sexual contact and persistent infection with several HPV strains, other than those causing skin warts, may progress to precancerous lesions and invasive cancer, such as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia.
Nutrient Benefits in Treating HPV Infections
A November 2003 article in “Cancer Causes and Control” included a study to explore the relationship between diet and cervical cancer. The investigators collected cervical cells for HPV DNA testing from women who were diagnosed with lesions of the cervix. They also administered a survey to assess intake of nutrients from specific food items as well as from supplements. The research showed that riboflavin and thiamin from food sources, vitamin B-12 supplements and folate from either source presented dose-dependent responses to cervical scarring. The authors also noted that risk of cervical lesions, associated with low nutrient intake, was most pronounced among drinkers and smokers. This investigation provides evidence that thiamin, riboflavin, folate and vitamin B-12 might play a defensive role in cervical cancer caused by HPV.
HPV and CIN
A high HPV viral load is associated with an increased risk of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, or CIN. The April 2010 issue of the "International Journal of Gynecological Cancer” published an article that examined the effects of dietary supplements on HPV infection and cervical cancer. The researchers recruited more than 1,000 women and detailed each participant's routine dietary intake during the prior year. They classified dietary supplements into five categories: multivitamins, multinutrients, vitamin C, calcium and miscellaneous. The study found that dietary supplement use including multivitamins, vitamins A, C, E and calcium was significantly associated with a lower risk of CIN. The patients who took multivitamins had a lower HPV viral load and a significantly decreased frequency of CIN.
Medical Literature Review
An article appearing in the February 2007 issue of the “Journal of the American Medical Association” contained a systematic review and analysis in which the authors searched electronic databases and bibliographies for all randomized trials involving adults comparing beta carotene, vitamins A C and E, and selenium either individually or combined against a placebo. They included 68 randomized trials with 232,606 participants in 385 publications. The study found that when antioxidant supplements were pooled, there was no significant effect on the prognosis of the disease. However, after exclusion of the selenium trials, beta carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E, singly or combined, showed that survivorship significantly increased. The authors concluded that the potential roles of vitamin C and selenium on mortality need further study.