Human papiloma virus (HPV) seems to be a causative factor in cervical cancer. Over 95% of women with cervical cancer also have HPV1. There are many strains of HPV and some strains are much more likely to lead to cancer.2 Several other factors seem to play a role in whether or not a virulent HPV infection develops into cancer. One of these is oral contraceptive (OC) use and one is low folic acid level.2
It has been recognized for a long time that at least some forms of oral contraceptives deplete body folate levels. In 1995 as study was done comparing 29 women who used oral contraceptives to 33 women who had an IUD. The amount of folic acid in the red blood cells of the women on birth control pills was lower, but the amount of folacin in the serum was essentially the same in both groups. The women in the OC group also had changes to the cells lining the cervix. The diameters of the nuclei of the cells were larger and the cells themselves were larger. Folic acid was given to the women on birth control pills and by three weeks the abnormal changes cleared up in 26 of the 29 women.3
In 1997 324 women with CIN (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia - i.e. an abnormal pap smear) and HPV were compared to 228 women with normal pap smears. Serum folic acid levels were checked for in women from each group. Statistically lower amount of serum folic acid were found in the women with CIN and HPV.2
These findings suggest that folic acid supplementation may prevent HPV infection resulting in cancer. Further research would be necessary to prove the this, however.
1. Meg Meeker, M.D., Epidemic: How Teen Sex Is Killing Our Kids by LifeLine Press: Washington, D.C 2002
2. Kwansniewska A, Tukendorf A, Semczuk M. (1997) Folate deficiency and cervical interepithelial neoplasia. European Journal of Gynaecologic Onocology 18(6):526-30.
3. Li X, Ran J, and Rao H, (1995) Megaloblastic changes in cervical epithelium associated with oral contraceptives and changes after treatment with folic acid