An article published in the April, 2010 issue of the International Journal of Gynecologic Cancers reports the finding of researchers at Korea University College of Medicine and Korea's National Cancer Center of a lower risk of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN, also known as cervical dysplasia) among human papilloma virus (HPV) positive women who consumed vitamin supplements. Human papilloma virus has been identified as the agent responsible for cervical cancer, for which cervical intraepithelial neoplasia is a precursor. The condition is detected by a pap smear and graded according to stage as CIN 1, 2 or 3. Although CIN can regress on its own, it is frequently treated with cryocautery, electrocautery or other methods. 

The current study included 328 HPV-positive participants in a Korean cohort study begun in 2006. Ninety women with CIN1 and 72 with CIN 2/3 were compared with 166 control subjects. Dietary intake prior to enrollment was documented in questionnaire responses, and supplement use was classified into 5 categories. Human papilloma viral load was ascertained by cervical sampling for HPV DNA.

Having a high HPV viral load was associated with a three times greater risk of CIN 2/3 compared with the risk associated with a low viral load. Women who used multivitamin supplements had a 79 percent lower risk of CIN 2/3 than those who did not use them. Similar reductions in CIN 2/3 risk were observed for vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and calcium supplement use. For participants with a low viral load, the risk of CIN 1 was reduced by 65 percent and that of CIN 2/3 by 89 percent in multivitamin supplement users compared to nonusers.

"HPV infection alone does not lead to cervical neoplasia; other factors, such as the patient’s nutritional status, play a role in cervical carcinogenesis," the authors write. "Dietary guidelines for the prevention of cervical cancer recognize the importance of antioxidants and have recommended an increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables as good sources of dietary antioxidants."

"This is the first study to report on an association between cervical dysplasia in women with high-risk HPV, the HPV DNA load, and dietary supplements," they announce. "Larger studies are needed for confirmation of these findings before the results can be generalized to a broader population."