Eating a variety of fruits and vegetable may help protect you from developing cervical cancer. How? Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection with the human papilloma virus. Experts believe that a diet high in the antioxidants, carotenoids, flavonoids, and folate found in fruits and vegetables can help the body fight HPV infection and prevent HPV infection from turning cells of the cervix into cancerous lesions.
A study published in the journal Cancer Research found that women whose blood tests showed high levels of certain chemical compounds — indicating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables — were able to clear their HPV infections faster than their peers, which could help reduce the risk of cancer.
Fighting Cervical Cancer With Diet
“Lots of research points to great benefits associated with diet and cancer . Eating mostly a plant-based diet — one that is made up primarily of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains — is the best,” says Susan Moores, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman.
You can find ways to include these foods in your diet throughout the day. Moores recommends adding a variety of colors to your diet and including nutritious foods with attributes that fight Cervical cancer at all three meals. For example:
- Breakfast: orange juice, cantaloupe, yogurt, and granola
- Lunch: open-faced toasted cheese and veggie sandwich with red peppers, carrots, mushrooms, and zucchini
- Dinner: tossed romaine salad with grapefruit segments and whole-wheat pasta with spinach, black beans, chicken, and diced tomatoes
Flavonoids to Reduce Cervical Cancer Risk
Flavonoids are chemical compounds in fruits and vegetables that are thought to be a leading source protection against cancer. The following are just a few examples of flavonoid-rich foods to consider adding to your diet:
- Black beans
- Brussels sprouts
- Lima beans
Folate as a Cervical Cancer Risk Reducer
Studies suggest that foods rich in folate (a water-soluble B vitamin) reduce the risk of cervical cancer in people with HPV. However, researchers do not yet know how folate might affect cancer risk. It is possible that folate helps the body stop HPV infection from coming back repeatedly, which decreases the risk of developing cancer.
- Fortified cereals and breads
- Orange juice
- Romaine lettuce
Carotenoids in the Cervical Cancer Diet
Some studies suggest that carotenoids, a source of vitamin A, are also helpful in preventing cervical cancer risk. In addition to the fruits, vegetables, and beans on the lists above, you could also include orange foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and winter squash in your diet.
Cervical Cancer: Diet Is Only Part of the Solution
However, a diet high in fruits and vegetables — although an important part of an overall cancer prevention plan — cannot prevent cervical cancer by itself.
“Cervical cancer is primarily a lifestyle cancer,” says gynecologist Rachel Reitan, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Tulane University School of Medicine. Reitan says she has not seen any research that convinces her that a dietary change is enough to prevent cancer. “Even vegetarians develop cervical cancer,” she says.
A healthy lifestyle that can help reduce your chances of developing cervical cancer should also include:
- Getting annual Pap smears to screen for early cell changes
- Getting vaccinated against HPV
- Not smoking
- Being monogamous (the risk of HPV increases with more than one sex partner)
Taking these steps and eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help you keep your cervical cancer risk low.