Research Study Reveals Diet Can Impact HPV-based Cancer Risk

The School of Public Health and Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans conducted a research study that revealed that a person’s diet could impact their likelihood of getting a high-risk (Human Papillomavirus) HPV infection. It is the type of infection that can cause cervical cancer in women.

According to the study, women on poor diets had a higher chance of getting genital high-risk HPV infections. These are women who fail to eat healthy foods like fruits, beans, and dark-green vegetables.

Other information included in the study was de-identified data of approximately 10,543 female adults between ages 18 and 59 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2003 to 2016). All the women had accurate data about their genital HPV infections and diet information based on the Health Eating Index. The data did not include vaccinated women or women with a history of cancer.

These American women between 15 and 59 showed the following results: 40.7% had an HPV infection; 19.2% had a high-risk HPV infection; 21.5% had a low-risk HPV infection, and 59.3% tested negative for HPV.

American women have low scores on the Healthy Eating Index when it comes to consuming fruits, greens, and beans. Under 50% of the women on the survey had achieved the highest score of 5 in the greens and beans category. The scores were 2.48 for whole fruits and 2.41 for whole fruits & juice.

Nearly 43% don’t eat greens and beans, while 27.5% don’t eat whole fruits. Even more shocking is that 15.8% reportedly don’t eat any fruits.

The Meaning of the Results 

Four specific dietary antioxidants in dark-green vegetables, beans, and fruits likely help slow down and prevent HPV infections in people who consume these foods.

The four antioxidants are folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, and Vitamin E. They are antioxidants known for reducing inflammation and stimulating immune system response in the body. These positive effects likely contribute to the lower HPV infection rate.

In addition, the researchers found that women practicing healthy diets likely exhibit other healthy habits and behaviors throughout their lives, such as responsible sexual behavior, no smoking, little or no alcohol consumption, and no drug abuse.

Facts About Cervical Cancer 

Cervical cancer is the number two most common cancer to kill American women between 20 and 39 years old. An HPV infection in the cervix is the number one reason for developing cervical cancer in women. In fact, approximately 99.7% of all cervical cancers connect to prior high-risk HPV infections or oncogenic infections.

Furthermore, an estimated 80% of American women will get infected with at least one HPV strain at some point in their lives. Fortunately, most HPV infections don’t cause the victims any symptoms because their immune systems eradicate the virus within two years of getting the HPV infection. But for the small percentage of infected women who end up carrying HPV longer, they have a high likelihood of developing cervical cancer.