The American College of Pathology states that four out of five women who die of cervical cancer had not had a PAP smear in the previous five years. According to U.S. statistics, the highest incidence of cervical cancer and the highest death rates occur in women over the age of 55, a group that often stops having annual PAP tests. PAP smears save lives by discovering abnormal cells, called cervical dysplasia, early enough to prevent loss of life from cervical cancer. All adult women from the age of 18 should have an annual PAP test to ensure that their cervix is healthy. But what can be done when the test comes back abnormal?
We know the main risk factors that promote abnormal cervical cells include using the birth control pill, increasing age, infection with the Human Papilloma Virus—HPV (the virus that also causes warts), smoking, and nutritional deficiencies of folic acid, vitamin A and vitamin C.
We definitely do not want to ignore abnormal PAP test results. In North America, we grade our PAP tests based on this scale: a CINI, CINII, CINIII, or a CINIV. A CINIV is cancer. Most women are not treated until they have an invasive CINIII. Always ask what grade your test is. Too many women are advised that they have an abnormal test result, told to come back in six months for another test, but not given any suggestions for how to get their cervical cells to return to normal. Yes, sometimes abnormal cells return to normal with no treatment, but what if simply taking a nutritional supplement could ensure a normal PAP?
We know that HPV is implicated in a large majority of cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer cases. New research has shown that a nutrient called Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) can reverse abnormal cervical lesions before they have a chance to develop into cancer. In one of many studies 30 women with CINII and CINIII cervical lesions took 200mg of I3C daily for six months. Fifty percent in the treatment group had complete regression of their lesions, while none in the placebo group experienced any change in their lesions.
There are other nutrients that also help balance female hormones, protect us from abnormal cell growth and reduce our risk of breast cancer that I believe we should be taking everyday. These include:
- Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) not only keeps our PAP smears normal but it also helps to break down cancer-causing estrogens to non-toxic forms. I3C is the most heavily researched nutrient shown to inhibit breast cancer tumors. We should call this the “breast cancer prevention nutrient.”
- Calcium D-glucarate is a powerful detoxifier of excess and toxic estrogens from the liver. D-glucarate is very important as it ensures that toxins are excreted and not released elsewhere in the body. If you think about toxins as being wrapped up and packaged for removal from the body then D-glucarate ensures that somewhere along the way the package does not open and the toxic contents spill out. It is most often used in combination with I3C.
- Green Tea Extract contains polyphenols, catechins and flavonoids shown to be protective against estrogen-dominant breast cancers. Research used the standardized extracts. Daily consumption of green tea is also cancer protective.
- Curcumin is the yellow pigment of turmeric. Research using it in capsules found it be a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and to inhibit all steps of cancer formation: initiation, promotion, and progression. Curcumin also protects against inflammatory calcium loss from our bones.
- Milk Thistle enhances detoxification from the liver, inhibits breast cancer cells from replicating and reduces the toxic effects of chemotherapy. Our hormones are processed and packaged in the liver, and a healthy liver is essential to healthy hormones.
- Rosemary Extract, a potent antioxidant, inhibits breast cancer development, and it helps to detoxify carcinogenic estrogens.
- Lycopene was recently shown to reduce a women’s risk of breast cancer by 36 percent when those women took 6.5 mg per day.
- Sulfurophane, from broccoli sprout extract, has been shown to stimulate the body’s production of detoxification enzymes that eliminate xenoestrogens. Recent research points to this nutrient as a powerful anti-breast cancer agent. A modified sulfurophane is slated to be the next hot cancer drug.
- Lignans found in flaxseed have been found to reduce the growth of breast cancer tumors, increase the excretion of toxic estrogens and inhibit hormone dominant cancers. Researchers at the University of Toronto believe that daily consumption of lignans can prevent breast cancer.
- Omega 3s from fish oil, when taken in 3 gram per day doses, were found to improve the fatty acid composition of women’s breast tissue, thereby lowering breast cancer risk.
Cervical dysplasia and cervical cancer can be prevented. Have your annual PAP smear and make sure your mom has hers as well. Too many women after menopause are not having annual tests. PAP tests save lives! Smart women also take their multivitamin with minerals everyday and include Indole-3carbinol and the nutrients mentioned above to reduce their risk of cancer and hormonal problems.