Cervical cancer

The risk of cervical cancer is linked to infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). Infection with HPV can cause genital warts (which is the second most common sexually transmitted infection in England) as well as changes to cells in the cervix which can sometimes lead to cervical cancer.

Women with unhealthy diets, based on meat, fatty and processed foods, have a higher cervical cancer risk but fruit and vegetables offer some protection. A low-fat vegan diet can significantly reduce the risk of cervical cancer regardless of HPV infection.

Specific nutrients that may help protect against the disease include folate (folic acid) and vitamin B12. Folate occurs in a wide variety of foods including vegetables (particularly dark green leafy vegetables), fruits and fruit juices, nuts, pulses (peas, beans and lentils) and wholegrains. Avocado, beetroot, spinach, asparagus and Brussels sprouts are excellent sources of folate. Vitamin B12 can be found in fortified veggie burger mixes, yeast extracts, margarines, breakfast cereals and soya milks or supplements.

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It’s official; vegetarians and vegans get less cancer. A new study from Oxford University, looking at how diet affects cancer risk, has revealed that people who don’t eat meat have a much lower risk of getting the disease. The 15-year study followed 60,000 British men and women, of which over 18,000 were vegetarians and 2,246 vegan. They found that cancer incidence was 11 per cent lower in vegetarians, but a whopping 19 per cent lower in vegans. This adds to a huge body of evidence showing how red and processed meat increases the risk of cancer and other diseases.

Almost one in two of us will get cancer at some point in our lives. Why is it rampaging out of control and how can we fight it? To find out, Viva! founder Juliet Gellatley met Professor Mustafa Djamgoz, Professor of Cancer Biology at Imperial College, London, and co-author (with Professor Jane Plant) of the book Beat Cancer