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Curcumin, HPV, and Oral Cancer

June 29, 2015 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

A few months ago, a young lady came to me near tears.

In her early 20s, Wendy came to get a second opinion. Her previous doctor wanted to cut out her tongue. She was hoping I could save it.

You see, she had tongue cancer. It hit her very young—but for a good reason.

She had an oral version of Human Papilloma Virus—HPV. And it led to her cancer.

HPV gets most of its press as a cancer-causing infection of women’s reproductive organs. But it’s much more pervasive than that. It can strike anyone, of any age, and any gender.

Indeed, another patient of mine—Michael, in his 60s—also came in with an HPV-related tongue cancer.

Over the past two years, I’ve treated about 700 HPV-related cases of tongue and neck cancer. Thankfully, when caught early, it’s very treatable. Wendy walked away with her tongue and is cancer-free.

But just because it can be treated when caught early, that doesn’t mean we should trivialize HPV-related cancers. They can be deadly.

Today, we know that at least 30%-40% of all tongue and neck cancers are HPV related. And not all of them have happy endings.

The actual number of HPV-related cancers is probably much higher. According to the CDC, virtually all sexually active men and women have one of the 100 or so strains of HPV.

But most people don’t know it.

There is no blood test. Some strains have visible signs like genital (or oral) warts. But those strains generally aren’t associated with cancer. In fact, about 70% of all HPV-related cancers are caused by only two strains—neither of which have outward symptoms.

DNA testing of Pap tests can work. But that’s usually only done when pre-cancerous indicators are present, and only applies to the cervix. It doesn’t do a thing for ferreting out the oral version of HPV.

That’s a pity. Because we’re finding there are many ways to treat HPV—and prevent it from becoming dangerous.

A Curry A Day…

One recent study conducted at Emory University found that curcumin—a powerful antioxidant compound in the spice turmeric—has enormous cancer-fighting potential.

In studying its effects on one particularly virulent and cancer-causing strain of oral HPV, it interfered with the virus’ ability to spread and reproduce.

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

It also helped stop certain protein factors from activating to spread cancer. And, once activated, curcumin slows down the transcription of cancer-causing genes.

In English—it slows down cancer. It doesn’t cure HPV-caused cancers, though there may be promising, related treatments discovered down the road.

But this study has found, at the very least, curcumin slows and weakens HPV-related cancer, and consequently increases the effectiveness of other cancer treatments like chemotherapy.

How To Use This Information

HPV is a tricky virus.

It’s difficult to identify without DNA testing, and even that has limited use.

While there is a vaccine, it doesn’t protect against all 100+ strains of HPV. And that particular vaccine has been linked to potentially adverse side effects.

Using barrier protection during sex—like condoms—is helpful. Something forgotten by the senior set, which has seen an explosion of all sorts of STIs—including HPV—during this Viagra Age.

However, only around 40% of HPV strains are sexually transmitted. Not even abstinence is perfect protection.

And, of course, there is no cure for HPV. But we can successfully treat related cancers. And curcumin is a powerful new weapon in the fight.

But once you’ve got HPV, you’ve got it.

So here’s the best advice I have: Monitor your health closely. HPV-related cancers will often show up as abnormalities around sexual organs, or inside your mouth and throat.

Ordinary Pap tests, for instance, can see abnormalities long before HPV has turned into a deadly cancer. So make sure you keep up to date on all your tests, and be vigilant if you feel anything is off.

Especially if you’ve engaged in any risky behavior, like unprotected sex.

And, in the meantime, keep up with your curcumin supplements. Curcumin is the best natural weapon we currently have against HPV. And it boasts a whole host of other beneficial advantages, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. The occasional curry won’t hurt either.

If you have HPV, it won’t cure you. But increasing your daily curcumin intake might slow it down enough to let you catch it, and treat it, before it becomes fatal.

That’s a pretty good reason to toss some curumin into your supplement regimen.

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