Cervical dysplasia refers to pre-cancerous changes in the cells on the surface of the cervix. If left untreated, cervical dysplasia can progress into cervical cancer-the second-most-common cancer in women ages 20 to 39. However, Pap tests have greatly increased the ability to identify cervical dysplasia before this change occurs. Cervical cancer is also one of the most common causes of cancer deaths among women in the developing world due to limited access to health care such as Pap tests.
The majority of cervical dysplasia cases are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV); however, not all women with the virus will develop cervical dysplasia or cervical cancer. There are more than 100 HPV subtypes that have been identified and categorized, more than 30 of which can infect the genital area.
Signs & Symptoms
- Vaginal bleeding after intercourse, between periods, or after menopause
- Watery, bloody vaginal discharge that may be heavy or have a foul odor
- Pelvic pain during intercourse
A diet high in fruits and vegetables has been found to be protective against cervical cancer and dysplasia. Foods high in vitamin C, selenium, carotenoids, and vitamin E should be included as part of every woman's diet.
- Vitamin C: papaya, kiwi, peppers, oranges, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, strawberries, and cantaloupe
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, fish, turkey, barley, shrimp, lamb, and scallops
- Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, papaya, mustard greens, and asparagus
- Carotenoids: Carrots, squash, collards, tomatoes, sweet potato, pumpkin, spinach, and kale
Studies have shown a connection between folate deficiency and an increased risk of cervical dysplasia. In two separate double-blind trials and one uncontrolled trial, doses of 5-10 mg per day for one to three months were found to be effective for cervical dysplasia in women taking oral contraceptives.
Dosage: 2-10 mg daily for treatment, or 1-3 mg for prevention.
Editor's pick: Life Extension High Potency Optimized Folate
Vitamin C exerts both anticancer and antiviral effects. It's also involved in collagen synthesis and helps to detoxify potential carcinogens.
Dosage: 1,000-5,000 mg daily to bowel tolerance.
Editor's pick: American Health Ester-C 1000 mg with Citrus Bioflavonoids
Vitamins B12, B6, and folate help to decrease homocysteine levels. When elevated, homocysteine has been associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer. Methylcobalamin is the preferred form of B12 because it is utilized more efficiently in the body.
Dosage: 1,000 mcg daily.
Editor's pick: Emerald Laboratories B-Healthy
Studies of cervical dysplasia and carotenoids indicate that low concentrations of selected serum carotenoids (alpha carotene, beta carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin, and beta cryptoxanthin) are associated with an increased risk of cervical dysplasia.
Dosage: 75,000 IUs of mixed natural carotenoids twice daily for treatment, or 25,000-50,000 IUs for prevention.
Editor's pick: Nature's Life Mixed Carotenoids
Flaxseed and/or Pure Fish Oil:
Essential fatty acids, in the form of flaxseed or uncontaminated fish oil, decrease the formation of PGE2, a type of prostaglandin that acts as a messenger molecule to promote inflammatory pathways in the body. Some prostaglandins can actually inhibit cancer growth and support healthy immune function, while other prostaglandins promote cancer. Omega-3s (found in fish oil and flax oil) support the "healthy" prostaglandin pathways, preventing disease and abnormal cell growth.
Dosage: Take up to 2 Tbs. of flax oil daily and/or up to 3,000 mg fish oil daily with a minimum of 1,000 mg of EPA and 600 mg of DHA.
Editor's pick: Nordic Naturals Omega Woman
Vitamin E-Mixed Tocopherols:
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, and low levels of this vitamin have been associated with an increased risk of all stages of cervical dysplasia. Supplementing with vitamin E to raise serum levels is associated with a decreased risk. Vitamin E also promotes tissue healing.
Dosage: 400-800 IU daily.
Editor's pick: Carlson Labs E•Gems Elite
Selenium is another important antioxidant that protects against many cancers, including cervical cancer. It is an important mineral for activating optimal immune functioning. L-selenomethionine is more bioavailable and more easily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract.
Dosage: 200-400 mcg daily.
Editor's pick: Solgar Yeast-Free Selenium 200 MCG L-Selenomethionine
This is another important immunity-building mineral. It also helps heal tissue.
Dosage: 30 mg daily.
Editor's pick: Garden of Life Vitamin Code RAW Zinc
Probiotics-Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium spp.:
Probiotics are known to have an important role in the maintenance of normal flora in the gastrointestinal tract. They are also essential for the detoxification of excess estrogens from the body through the bowel along with dietary fiber. Probiotics also support optimal immune function, as 70 percent of our immune cells reside in the gut.
Dosage: at least 10 billion CFU daily with food.
Editor's pick: NOW Foods Women's Probiotic 20 Billion
Green tea extract:
This has been shown to prevent and/or treat HPV-related lesions. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) inhibits cervical cell proliferation and induces cell death (apoptosis) for cancer cells. It therefore possesses antitumor effects.
Dosage: 300 mg daily.
Editor's pick: Country Life Green Tea Extract
This chemical compound is found in cruciferous vegetables, including cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale. I3C has been shown to prevent abnormal cell growth and tumor progression. 13C increases the protective 2-hydroxyestrone without increasing the other harmful estrogens.
Dosage: 300 mg daily.
Editor's pick: Natural Factors EstroSense
Things That Increase Your Risk ...
- Becoming sexually active before age 18
- Having multiple sexual partners or being sexually active with a man who has multiple sexual partners
- Giving birth before age 22
- Compromised immune system
- Low socioeconomic status
- Family history of cervical cancer
- Oral contraceptives
- Poor nutrition
- Chlamydia infection, herpes simplex virus, or HIV
Things That Lower Your Risk ...
- Getting routine Pap tests, at least every three to five years for a normal Pap and every three to six months for an abnormal Pap
- Quitting smoking
- Minimizing alcohol consumption
- Using alternative forms of birth control rather than oral contraceptives (e.g., barrier methods such as condoms)
- Supporting healthy liver function-do a liver cleanse one to two times per year
- Reducing stress through deep breathing exercises, yoga, and/or meditation
- Exercising (a combination of cardio and weight-bearing exercise) at least 40-60 minutes per day, or at least three times per week
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