Cervical dysplasia, also known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), is the term used to describe the precancerous development of cervical tissue within the uterus, often associated with the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV). CIN can exist in 3 stages of worsening severity: CIN I, CIN II or CIN III, with the latter being the most progressive. Ultimately, the concern with these lesions is that they will develop into cervical cancer.
Screening for cervical dysplasia is routinely done on women during their physical exams in the form of a Pap smear test. This test essentially collects cells of the cervix and assesses their health under a microscope. If further investigation is warranted, a colposcopy or biopsy is performed to grade the severity of dysplasia.
If you are a woman with a diagnosis of CIN, you may be given the following treatment options: watch and wait, cryotherapy, loop excision or conization. But what if you don’t want to opt for surgery or just hope that the tissue heals itself? What if you want to be proactive with your health? Well, there are natural options for combating the progression of CIN.
As with any cancer type, it should come as no surprise that smoking cessation, high fruit and vegetable intake, and exercise are encouraged for halting progression and preventing recurrence of CIN. Additionally, safe sex practices, such as condom use, should be employed to prevent the transmission of HPV. For nutritional supplementation, the following nutrients have shown promise:
- Green Tea Extract: Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (ECGC) is the most abundant and active ingredient found in green tea, and has various anti-cancer actions. In the case of cervical dysplasia, ECGC has been found to arrest the growth of HPV-infected dysplastic cells in vitro. In a human clinical trial using green tea ointment directly on the cervix and oral administration of an ECGC extract, significant improvements in CIN grade were achieved. After 8 to 12 weeks of treatment, 35 out of 51 patients in the green tea treatment groups showed a favorable response (ie. reduced grade of CIN or resolution), whereas only 4 out of 39 in the placebo group showed improvements. These results vindicate green tea’s anti-cancer effects specifically in the case of CIN.
- I3C: Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is a compound found in high concentrations in broccoli and other members of the Brassica family (i.e. brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage). I3C and its metabolite, DIM, have been shown to act as anti-estrogen agents and improve the metabolism of estrogen within the liver. As a result of these actions, both agents have proven beneficial for CIN. A double-blind, placebo controlled study of 30 women with CIN II/III found that 47% of those taking I3C for 12 weeks had complete regression of their CIN while none of the women in the placebo group showed regression.
- 5-MTHF: 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) is the active form of folic acid and has been suggested as an important factor in cancer prevention. In the case of cervical dysplasia, many studies have found an inverse association between CIN stage and folate levels, meaning that low levels may be a risk factor for its development. More importantly, a large subset of the population is known to have a reduced ability to convert folate into 5-MTHF. There is a notable risk of CIN development in women who lack this ability, and as it is only diagnosable through genetic testing, it is important that supplementation with folate be in the form of 5-MTHF.
- Vitamin C: This essential antioxidant is well known for boosting the immune system and directly killing cancer cells. Moreover, women with cervical dysplasia have been shown to have low blood levels of Vitamin C, and high dietary intake has been correlated with a reduced risk of CIN.
If you have been diagnosed with cervical dysplasia, regardless of the grade or severity, be sure to consult with your integrated health care practitioner regarding the safe and effective use of these aforementioned supplements. Surgical procedures may be the best option for your circumstances, but be sure to consider lifestyle modifications to prevent recurrence as well.
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