Most tobacco cigarette smokers understand that smoking is damaging to their health.
The warning labels on cigarette packets try and make that clear!
In addition to being a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease, what people may not know is that tobacco smoking is also linked to persistent HPV infections, worsening of HPV symptoms, and the development of cervical cancer.
HPV and Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is a common and feared outcome of an HPV infection.
The climbing rates of cervical cancer can be specifically attributed to the equal rise in HPV infections. HPV 16 and 18 are the two strains mainly responsible for causing cancer. There are many factors that may increase your risk for cervical cancer if you have HPV, including lifestyle factors like diet and exercise.
Tobacco’s Connection to HPV
One of the higher risk environmental factors is tobacco smoking. It is suggested that squamous cell carcinoma of the cervix should be added to the list of tobacco-associated cancers.
How many cigarettes cause harm?
Studies show that current tobacco use was associated with a significant moderate risk of recurring HPV infections, the risk of being HPV positive being specifically associated with increasing number of cigarettes smoked per day.
Here are the highlights from a study about cigarette smoking and HPV risk:
- In a cohort of over 3,000 women, cigarette smoking alone was not a risk factor for CIN 2, but it was a risk for those with a high risk strain of HPV, such as HPV 16 or 18
- Women infected with these strains were at high risk to develop CIN 1, 2, or 3.
- Number of cigarettes was most associated with high risk of CIN development.
Your Body and Tobacco
The researchers tried to find a connection with the immune response being affected, but the conclusion was that smoking has a special negative effect on high-risk HPV.
There is an imbalance of pro- and anti-inflammatory components in your body. There have been analyses done on female smokers showing that their cervical mucus contained constituents related to tobacco, such as nicotine!
We know that these constituents have terrible effects on our health and increased risk of lung cancer; it’s not hard to believe that finding these same constituents in your cervical mucus could have a similar effect. That same study showed increased risk of HPV-related squamous cell carcinoma in smokers.
From a biological perspective, smoking diminishes blood levels of certain antioxidants, such as vitamin C, which impairs your immune system and your body’s ability to fight off infection.
And remember that vitamin C is vital in the development of collagen (i.e. in your skin), so if quitting for your health is not motivation enough, quit for vanity – smoking ages your skin and contributes to wrinkles!
In a study in the journal Cancer Science, it was found that smokers had twice as high a risk of persistent HPV infection compared to never-smokers, and in young-women, passive smoking since childhood reduced probability of lesion regression. And it was not just smokers who had negative outcomes, it was found that even childhood exposure to second-hand smoke may increase the risk of persistent cervical abnormalities in young women!
With all this evidence against smoking when you have HPV, some studies showed that HPV status was not affected by smoking. Another study showed that current BUT NOT PAST smoking history affected the viral load of HPV. They found that it didn’t even vary with intensity and duration of smoking.
Quit Smoking Today!
There are many factors, however, that are associated with smoking, such as an unhealthy lifestyle, negatively-rated life events, lack of social support, poor coping mechanisms, distress, and other substance abuse, all of which will increase your risk of developing cervical cancer from your HPV diagnosis.
Although this research seems to be up and down, the bottom line is clear – smoking will not do anything to improve your health in HPV or other parts of your life. If you have HPV, quitting smoking should be your top priority. For help with becoming smoke-free, check out the resources below!
How Can Papillex Help?
In conjunction with stopping smoking, Papillex can also help your body to respond to HPV in a natural and healthy way, replenishing vitamin deficiencies that are often found in repeat sufferers of the virus.