Nutrient Support For A Healthy Cervix
Since as far back as 1981, statistically significant differences in levels of vitamins A, C, and beta carotene have been noted between women with cervical dysplasia and healthy controls (Romney 1981; Wassertheil-Smoller 1981). Other nutrients studied in cervical dysplasia include folate, zinc, and vitamins B6, B12, and E. Changes in diet and nutritional supplementation can reduce the odds of developing cervical cancer (Marshall 2003; Gagandeep 2003; Friedman 2005).
Vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency has been observed in women with various grades of CIN, and higher levels of vitamin A have been shown to help reduce the risk of progression to cervical cancer (Kwasniewska 1996; Yeo 2000; Liu 1993; Shannon 2002; Volz 1995). Vitamin A deficiencies have been linked to CIN among Southwestern American Indian women (Yeo 2000) and HIV-positive women (French 2000). Vitamin A also may have a protective effect for black women in the early stages of CIN (Kanetsky 1998).
In two studies of women with CIN, a 3-fold to 4.5-fold higher risk of cervical cancer development was seen in those with a low level of vitamin A (Nagata 1999; Wylie-Rosett 1984). More severe stages of cervical dysplasia were associated with an even lower level of vitamin A (Kwasniewska 1996). Conversely, high levels of vitamin A were associated with cervical dysplasia regression, particularly in those who were HPV16-positive (Liu 1995).
B vitamins. Numerous studies have also shown vitamin B deficiencies among women with cervical dysplasia.
Vitamin B1. In women with high- and low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions of the cervix, the level of vitamin B1 was decreased in those with CIN. Progression of cervical dysplasia was associated with reduced levels of vitamin B1 (Hernandez 2003).
Vitamin B2. Low levels of vitamin B2 have been associated with an increased risk of low- and high-grade CIN (Liu 1993; Hernandez 2003). Interestingly, vitamin B2 deficiency has been associated with oral contraceptive use.
Vitamin B6. Cervical squamous intraepithelial lesions have been associated with a vitamin B6 deficiency (Ramaswamy 1984).
Vitamin B12. Low levels of vitamin B12 have been associated with both low- and high-grade squamous cervical lesions, as well as with HPV persistence (Hernandez 2003; Sedjo 2002; Goodman 2001). However, another study did not show an association between vitamin B12 and women who were either positive or negative for HPV (Sedjo 2003).
Folic Acid. Insufficient intake of folate is associated with increased risk for cervical dysplasia (Liu 1993; Kwanbunjan 2004; Buckley 1992; Grio 1993; Kwasniewska 1997; Weinstein 2001; Butterworth 1992; Ziegler 1986; Hernandez 2003; Goodman 2001). Interestingly, folate deficiency can be misdiagnosed as cervical dysplasia because their characteristics are similar (Zarcone 1996; Butterworth 1982).
Other theories to explain the connection between folate deficiency and cervical dysplasia include the increased demand for folate associated with pregnancy and oral contraceptive use (Potischman 1991; Butterworth 1982). This increased demand results in a folate deficiency in the cervical tissue, which could increase the risk of CIN (Piyathilake 2000).
One study suggests that folate deficiency could cause chromosomal damage, such as that seen in cervical cancer, as a result of impaired DNA synthesis or repair (Christensen 1996). Additional studies state that folate status may be involved in early stages of CIN but not in advanced disease (Potischman 1996; Butterworth 1992).
Vitamin C. An increased incidence of cervical dysplasia has been found with low levels of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in several studies (Romney 1985; Liu 1993; Potischman 1996; Palan 1996; Kwasniewska 1998; Buckley 1992; de Vet 1991; Kwasniewska 1996; Lee 2005).
Antioxidants. In general, antioxidant status has been closely linked to cervical dysplasia. Many studies have found low levels of antioxidants in women with various grades of cervical dysplasia. These antioxidants include alpha-tocopherol, gamma-tocopherol, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, canthaxanthin, alpha- and beta-cryptoxanthin, coenzyme Q10, and glutathione (Palan 2003; Palan 2004; Palan 1991; Palan 1996; Giuliano 1997; Kim 2003; Ho 1998; Goodman 1998). However, the relationship between reduced antioxidant levels and cervical dysplasia is poorly understood. It could be that lower antioxidant levels contribute to development of the condition, or conversely, the disease might cause reduced antioxidant levels as the body seeks to fight the disease. In either case, patients with cervical dysplasia should consider supplementing with a robust antioxidant program.
Minerals. Cervical dysplasia patients have also been found to have abnormal levels of minerals, including copper, selenium, and zinc. Studies have shown that patients with cervical dysplasia and invasive cancers have lower levels of selenium and zinc and a higher level of copper (Kim 2003; Grail 1986; Rybnikov 1985; Liu 1995). Ferritin, an iron-storing protein, has been shown to have a protective effect against cervical dysplasia (Amburgey 1993).
Cumin. Finally, the spice cumin has been demonstrated in animal studies to reduce the likelihood of developing cervical cancer (Gagandeep 2003).
Melatonin. Melatonin may help suppress rapid cell growth and mutation, but this association is still being studied, and some studies have found melatonin to have no effect on certain cancer lines (Anisimov 2000; Panzer 1998). Nevertheless, melatonin is commonly used by patients with cervical dysplasia (Greenlee 2004). One study found that melatonin inhibits the growth of cervical cancer cells in laboratory cultures after 48 hours of treatment (Chen 1995).
Researchers are also looking at variations in melatonin levels among patients with cervical dysplasia. One study revealed lowered melatonin secretion in endometrial cancer patients but not in those with squamous cervical cancer (Karasek 2000).