Study shows link between diet and HPV-related cancer risk

A study conducted by the Faculty of Public Health and Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans Schools of Public Health and Medicine reports that diet contributes to HPV infection leading to cervical cancer. The results are published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

This study showed that women who did not eat fruits, dark green vegetables and beans had a significantly higher risk of high-risk genital HPV infection. Additionally, consumption of whole grains and dairy products was inversely associated with low-risk HPV infection. »

Hui-Yi Lin, PhD, professor of biostatistics at LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health and lead study author

The study included anonymized data from 10,543 women from the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) from 2003-2016. The women were between the ages of 18 and 59, with valid data on genital HPV infection and information on healthy eating. Women with any dose of HPV vaccination or history of cancer were excluded.

For US women ages 15-59, the prevalence of any HPV infection is 40.7% and high-risk HPV infection is 19.2%. The prevalence of low-risk HPV was 21.5% and that of negative HPV was 59.3%.

Typically, American women have low Healthy Eating Index scores for green vegetables and beans and fruits, with less than half of the optimal score of 5. Their score in the green vegetables and beans was 2.02. The score for whole fruit was 2.48 and for total fruit (whole fruit plus juice) was 2.41. About 43% of women did not eat green vegetables and beans, 27.5% did not eat whole fruit, and 15.8% did not eat fruit altogether.

These results are consistent with the authors’ previous study on antioxidants, which indicated that all four dietary antioxidants (vitamins A, B2, E, and folate) were inversely associated with high-risk HPV infection.

These dietary antioxidants are found in dark green vegetables (like spinach, kale, and broccoli), beans (like lima beans, peas, soybeans, and black beans), and fruits (like oranges, grapes, blueberries and mango). The authors suggest that the potential biological mechanism of fruits, dark green vegetables, and beans to inhibit HPV infection may be through improved immune response and decreased inflammation.

The research team also observed that women who ate healthy tended to engage in other health behaviors. For example, women with a maximum score of 5 for total fruit were less likely to be current smokers, frequent alcohol drinkers, and lifetime users of illegal substances. They were also less likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors.

Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women ages 20 to 39 in the United States. The main cause of cervical cancer and precancerous lesions of the cervix is ​​infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). Almost all cervical cancers (99.7%) are directly linked to previous infection with oncogenic or high-risk HPVs. HPV infection is common among American women – it is estimated that approximately 80% of them will have at least one type of HPV infection in their lifetime. Although most HPV infections are asymptomatic and resolve within two years, some persist and progress to cervical cancer.

LSU Health New Orleans authors also include Drs. Tung-sung Tseng, Krzysztof Reiss and Michael E. Hagensee, Qiufan Fu, Xiaodan Zhu, and Dr. L. Joseph Su of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

This study was supported by the Center for Translational Viral Oncology, funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health.


Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center

Journal reference:

Lin, HY., et al. (2023) Impact of Diet Quality on Oncogenic Genital HPV Infection in Women. The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Leave a Reply