Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the reason women undergo pap smears or smear testing. HPV is a common virus which can reside in the cervix, and if it stays there for long enough, can result in cervical cell changes (CIN) and eventually can result in cervical cancer.
Some facts about HPV:
- HPV has many subtypes which are oncogenic (cancer causing) including types 16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 39, 45, 51, 52, 56, 58 and 59.
- 90% of HPV infections do not cause any issues and are cleared naturally by the immune system within 12-24 months.
- 10% of HPV infections are not cleared, are persistant and can cause cellular changes (cervical dysplasia/CIN) which can result in cervical cancer.
- Only a small percent of persistant HPV infections progress to cervical cancer (0.3-1.2%).
Risk factors for persistant HPV include:
- Long term oral contraceptive pill use (>5 years)
- Excess oestrogen
- Reduced hormone detoxification
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Low intake of fruits and vegetables
- Changes in gut bacteria (the oestrobolome which are the gut bacteria that detoxify oestrogen)
- Methylation issues
- Reduced immune function
- Sexual intercourse at a young age
- Multiple sexual partners
- Infection with chalmydia trachomatis
- Changes to the cervical/vaginal microbiome (balance of good vs bad bacteria)
Thankfully there is so much we can do to lower oestrogen levels (if relevant), improve oestrogen metabolism into less potent forms, rectify nutrient deficiencies, support methylation and improve the immune system to support the clearance of HPV and reverse cervical cellular changes (CIN) and prevent potential cervical cancer. There are plenty of evidence-based natural solutions to do this.