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Folate deficiency linked with increased risk of cervical dysplasia
Research conducted at Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand found that consuming a diet that is low in the B vitamin folate (the dietary form of folic acid) is associated with a greater risk of having cervical dysplasia. Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, also known as cervical dysplasia, is a precancerous condition of the uterine cervix that has been linked to infection with one of several human papillomaviruses (HPV), yet HPV infection alone is not sufficient to cause cervical cancer. The study was published in the July 2005 issue of Nutrition Research (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/02715317).
The study included 114 women with cervical dysplasia and 95 healthy women who served as controls. Forty-four of the women with dysplasia were classified as low grade (class I) and 70 were high grade (class II, III, and carcinoma in situ). Participants were interviewed concerning the content of their diets over the previous 24 hours and folate intake was calculated. Blood tests determined the women’s serum and red blood cell folate levels as well as homocysteine.
Using values lower than 7 nanomoles per liter as the point at which folate deficiency was diagnosed, 3 percent of the women with high-grade cervical dysplasia and 4.5 percent of those with low-grade disease were folate deficient, yet none of the women in the control group were determined to have a deficiency. Women with low grade cervical dysplasia whose serum folate was in the lowest one-third of participants had over six times the risk of the condition than women whose folate was in the top third. Similarly, women with high-grade dysplasia in the lowest third of folate intake experienced a 5.57 greater risk. When dietary folate was examined, there was also an increased risk of dysplasia associated with lower intake although it was not considered significant, however, an association between dietary and serum folate levels was found. Additionally, higher serum homocysteine levels were associated with a greater risk of cervical dysplasia, although the risk was greater for low grade disease.
The authors write that because of a preference for cooked over fresh vegetables, many people in Thailand are deficient in folate, and they note that in the current study, even the control group had an intake of folate that was below the recommended daily allowance for their country. A deficiency in folate is associated with chromosome breaks and may interfere with DNA synthesis, repair and methylation or make cells more susceptible to cancer-causing viruses. Low folate levels alone may not increase the risk of cervical dysplasia, but they appear to augment the effects of additional risk factors.
Cervical dysplasia is an abnormal benign or premalignant (or precancerous) change that occurs in the cells of the female cervix. Cervical dysplasia or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) is asymptomatic (Goodman 2002). Left undiagnosed or untreated, cervical dysplasia can progress to cervical cancer (Clayman 1989). Worldwide, cervical cancer is still the second leading cause of cancer death in women (WHO 1997).
Supplements, taken orally as well as delivered topically, have been shown to be an effective part of an integrated treatment approach for cervical dysplasia. Several vitamins and supplements have been the subject of scientific studies that demonstrated the benefits and the supportive role of supplements in a positive outcome for cervical dysplasia, including vitamins A, B6, C, and E, beta-carotene, topical vitamin A, indole-3-carbinol, folic acid, lycopene, alpha-carotene, selenium, and zinc.
Folic acid is also important for healthy cervical tissue. Folic acid has been reported to play a therapeutic role in preventing cervical dysplasia and in reducing the risks of neoplasia in ulcerative colitis (Butterworth et al. 1992a; 1992b; Zarcone et al. 1996). Additional studies demonstrated that folic acid supplementation arrested progression of dysplasia in oral contraceptive users who had mild to moderate dysplasia. In some cases, folic acid supplementation was reported to have reversed dysplasia (Butterworth 1982).
Nagata et al. (1999b) reported in the British Journal of Cancer that alpha-carotene levels are associated with a decreased risk for cervical dysplasia. The study was conducted in 156 women who had newly histologically confirmed cervical dysplasia and age-matched controls from women who had normal Pap smears. When their cervical tissue and blood samples were compared, the researchers found a decreased risk for cervical dysplasia with the highest serum levels of alpha-carotene (after other factors, such as smoking and HPV, were removed).
Protecting your DNA from lethal mutations, by Dave Tuttle
“Cancer results from the accumulation of mutations in genes that regulate cellular proliferation.”
Even doctors have a hard time understanding that most cancers are caused by mutations in genes that regulate cell division.
Mutagens come from a variety of sources, including tobacco smoke and environmental pollutants. The number-one cancer-causing mutagen, however, is our diet.
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