Did you know Vitamin D May Help Prevent Cervical Cancer?
By Dr. Amy Loschert, ND, FABNO
The Question Researchers are Asking
When a person has been told their pap smear is abnormal, it usually, but not always, indicates tissue changes due to being infected with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV is of concern since some strains of the virus can develop into cervical cancer. Fortunately, 90% of these infections are what we call, self-limiting, in doctor speak. This means that the body’s immune system clears the aberrant tissue before it develops any further. Unfortunately, it is possible that the infection becomes malignant and starts spreading throughout the cervical skin tissue into invasive cervical cancer.
So, one question researchers are asking is, “What risk factors or protective behaviors lead to someone’s HPV infection turning into cancer or not?” Well, known risk factors include things that reduce immune system functioning such as smoking, immune-suppressive diseases like HIV, or recurring exposure through multiple sex partners. Regarding what protects a person against this type of cancer, a recent study shows that Vitamin D supplementation may be protective against HPV developing further into cancer.
Vitamin D3 Study Results
A study published in the Journal of Hormones and Cancer (Vahedpoor, 2011) looked at 58 women diagnosed with low grade premalignant cervical tissue, otherwise known as CIN I. They were randomly separated into two groups. One group was given high dose Vitamin D3 and the other a placebo for six months, and their blood levels of Vitamin D were taken before and after treatment to determine their baseline and post-treatment vitamin status. After six months of Vit D administration, a clinically significant number of women in the Vitamin D group no longer had CIN 1 status (cleared the HPV infected tissue) than those in the placebo group, 84.6% vs. 53.8%, respectively. Vitamin D levels rose at least 12 times higher in the Vitamin D group from baseline until the end of the study, whereas levels in the placebo were virtually unchanged.
The Mediator of Immune Health
Secondary benefits of vitamin D supplementation were also found in women who received the vitamin. Researchers discovered significantly decreased insulin levels, and an increase in insulin sensitivity, two critical markers of blood sugar balance, and diabetes. Insulin is also a crucial hormone that can drive certain cancers, especially hormone-related cancers such as breast and prostate. Levels of nitric oxide, an essential molecule in the body for blood vessel health and blood pressure control, were also much higher in the group who received vitamin D.
Vitamin D is a significant mediator of immune health, and data suggests it to be protective against other types of cancer, including colorectal, breast, prostate, and pancreatic (Gandini, 2011 & Zhang, 2011).
Vahedpoor, Z., Jamilian, M., Bahmani, F. et al. Effects of Long-Term Vitamin D Supplementation on Regression and Metabolic Status of Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. HORM CANC 8, 58–67 (2017).
Gandini S, Boniol M, Haukka J, et al. Meta-analysis of observational studies of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and colorectal, breast and prostate cancer and colorectal adenoma. International Journal of Cancer. 2011;128(6):1414-1424
Ma Y, Zhang P, Wang F, et al. Association between vitamin D and risk of colorectal cancer: a systematic review of prospective studies. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2011;29(28):3775-3782.