January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, which invites you to learn more about a cancer that is actually among the most preventable forms. This is largely due to the Pap smear test, which has caused the number of cervical cancer cases to drop measurably over the past twenty years.
Nonetheless, over 9,000 women in the U.S. develop cervical cancer every year. While some cases of cervical cancer can&rsquo:t be prevented, there are a number of things a woman can do to reduce her risk. For example:
Get a regular Pap smear
The Pap smear is a prime defense against cervical cancer, as it can detect cervical changes long before they develop into cancer. Ask your physician how often you need this test.
Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of developing many cancers, including cervical cancer. Smoking combined with an HPV infection can actually accelerate cervical dysplasia?a precursor to cervical cancer. If you smoke, kick the habit now. Avoid dangerous secondhand smoke too.
Follow up on abnormal Pap smears
If you&rsquo:ve had an abnormal Pap smear, it&rsquo:s important to follow up with regular Pap smears to rule out cervical dysplasia, which can turn into cervical cancer.
Boost your nutrient intake
Most cases of cervical cancer are caused by infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). A diet high in carotenoids, flavonoids, and folic acid not only fights HPV infection, but also helps prevent it from turning cervical cells into cancerous lesions.
Power up on antioxidants
Antioxidants play a unique role in helping to block cervical cancer, because although the HPV infection is necessary to the development of this cancer, it&rsquo:s not sufficient in itself to produce it. The cancer "flame" may be ignited by oxidative stress?when your cells battle against free radical assault with insufficient antioxidant protection.1
Among antioxidants, polyphenols have been shown to selectively inhibit tumor cell growth, protecting against cervical cancer. Resveratrol in particular has been shown to be protective on multiple levels.2 Though you may enjoy red wine, for optimal levels of resveratrol, supplementation is key.
Why not take all the natural, healthy steps that you can? Protection is power!
1 Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Oct 12. [Epub ahead of print]
2 Anticancer Res. 2004 Sep-Oct;24(5A):2783-840.