Blueberries May Help You Fight Cervical Cancer5 years ago | Nutrition
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women worldwide. According to the American Cancer Society, about 13,240 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 2018. And about 4,170 women are predicted to die from cervical cancer this year. Many cases of cervical cancer occur in women younger than 50.
There are a few options for treatment of cervical cancer. And some of these options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or any combination of these methods. The type of treatment selected usually depends on tumor size, if the cancer has spread and if the patient desires pregnancy in the future.
And in a new study, published in the journal Pathology and Oncology Magazine, researchers found evidence that consuming blueberry extract may play a key role in cervical cancer treatment involving radiation therapy.
“Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays and other particles such as gamma rays to destroy cancer cells,” said Dr. Yujiang Fang, lead author of the study.
“For some cancers, such as late-stage cervical cancer, radiation is a good treatment option. However, collateral damage to healthy cells always occurs.”
Fang and her team aimed to find out if blueberry extract would be a good radiosensitizer.
A radiosensitizer is a compound that enhances tumour cell killing while having much less effect on normal tissues.
What made these researchers consider blueberry extract?
The researchers found from a previous study that a compound in red grapes and red wine, called resveratrol, was an effective radiosensitizer in the treatment of prostate cancer with radiation therapy.
Blueberries also contain resveratrol. Additionally, these berries have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. These are all important qualities in keeping cells healthy (especially during cancer treatment).
The researchers tested human cervical cancer cell lines with blueberry extract. They tested the extract alone and in combination with radiation therapy. These methods were then compared to the use of radiation therapy alone.
According to a report on the study, radiation therapy alone reduced the number of cancer cells by 20 percent while the blueberry extract alone led to a 25 percent reduction in cancer cells.
When the blueberry extract and radiation therapy were combined, the number of human cervical cancer cells fell by around 70 percent!
Blueberry extract not only appears to make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation but it also appears to prevent cancer cells from reproducing and encourages them to die.
It should not be surprising that blueberries may be effective in treating cancer, because they are packed with a myriad of nutrients such as copper, folate, choline, vitamin A, vitamin E and manganese.
“As well as anthocyanins, vitamins, and minerals, blueberries contain a diverse range of phenolic compounds such as quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, and chlorogenic acid. These contribute to the antioxidant capacity of blueberries,” according to a report.
These large amounts of “bioactive compounds place blueberries high on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). This index rates foods based on their vitamin and mineral content, phytochemical composition, and antioxidant capacity.”
But while it’s great that blueberries might play a powerful part in cervical cancer treatment, we can all probably agree that prevention is better than cure.
So how can we be proactive about preventing cervical cancer?
Practice safe sex.
It is extremely important to have safe, protected sex in order to decrease the chance of developing cervical cancer.
Human Papillomaviruses (HPVs) are a group of more than 200 related viruses. More than 40 HPV types can be easily spread through direct sexual contact, according to the National Cancer Institute. Within the sexually transmitted HPV types, there are low-risk HPVs and high-risk HPVS. There are about a dozen identified high-risk HPV types and two of the them, types 16 and 18, can be connected to most cancers caused by HPV, including cervical cancer.
There is an HPV vaccine that may help reduce your risk of contracting HPV infections through sexual contact, but this vaccine does not offer guaranteed protection and should never be used as a method of protection, like condoms.
As many as 93% of cervical cancers could be prevented by screening and HPV vaccination, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Get a pap smear.
Also called a pap test, a pap smear looks for cancers and precancers (abnormal cells that may lead to cancer if left untreated) in the cervix. How often a woman needs a pap smear depends on her age, health history and more. For example, some healthcare professionals recommend that women between the ages of 21 and 29 get a pap smear every three years, while older women may need a pap smear less often. Every individual is different, so it is important to discuss your personal needs with your doctor.
You can also get a screening to specifically detect HPV.
If you smoke, quit!
There are endless reasons to quit smoking, and the biggest reason you are likely thinking of is lung cancer. But if you are a woman who smokes, cervical cancer is another reason why you should quit.
“Women who smoke are about twice as likely as non-smokers to get cervical cancer. Tobacco by-products have been found in the cervical mucus of women who smoke,” according to the American Cancer Society. “Researchers believe that these substances damage the DNA of cervix cells and may contribute to the development of cervical cancer. Smoking also makes the immune system less effective in fighting HPV infections.”
Eat a healthy, antioxidant rich diet.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that 30-40% of all cancers can be prevented by lifestyle and dietary measures alone. For cancer prevention, it is important to get a daily adequate intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which help reduce the damage from oxidative stress.
You can help your body achieve all of its nutritional needs by eating plenty of vegetables and fruits (like blueberries!), lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats (like nuts and avocados).
If you decide to increase your intake of blueberries, be aware of any potential interactions with medications you take.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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