HPV virus

  1. Do women really need less of this life saving test?

    If there's any cancer screening that actually works -- one that saves lives without ruining any in the process -- it's the Pap smears used to detect cervical cancer in women.

    Yet the mainstream is starting to back away from them -- and now, the latest recommendations say women can get smeared much less frequently. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says most women can get Pap smears every three years between the ages of 21 and 65.

    Under 21 and older than 65 can skip the test altogether, and women between the ages of 30 and 65 can get theirs every five years if they get an HPV test at the same time as their Pap smear.

    That's a test that checks for the presence of the sexually transmitted HPV virus that causes the cancer.

    The Task Force says it just wants to cut back on screenings to lower the risk of overtreatment, since many cervical lesions will go away on their own -- and that's all true enough.

    But the Pap smear doesn't have the same issues as some of the other cancer screenings, like the radioactive mammograms that can actually cause the very breast cancers they're supposed to detect -- so the risks here are minimal.

    Dr. Mark Stengler put it best when I asked him about the new recommendations.

    "I have no problem with yearly screenings with a procedure that is nontoxic," he told me.

    On the other hand, he said some women can indeed safely go three to five years between screenings: women who are not sexually active and have no history that would suggest they're at risk for cervical cancer.

    But a Pap smear is really just a small piece of the picture here, because the best way to beat this cancer is to avoid getting in the first place.

    Dr. Stengler says one of the simplest ways to avoid the cervical dysplasia that can turn into cancer -- and even help beat the HPV infection that causes it -- is with a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, especially those rich in vitamin E.

    In his book "Prescription for Natural Cures," Dr. Stengler also offers seven natural remedies for cervical dysplasia, including indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and diindolylmethane (DIM).

    The names don't exactly roll off the tongue, but all you really need to know is that they're extracts from the cruciferous vegetables -- like broccoli -- that you should be eating anyway.

    I'm not done with women's health yet. Keep reading for the latest natural solution for hot flashes.

  2. Just a spoonful of sugar… and a slice of lemon

    If you like your green tea with lemon and a hint of sugar, then consider yourself lucky – because you're getting the greatest benefit of all, even if you don't realize it.

    Researchers were looking for a more efficient way to study green tea's effect on animals. And they stumbled upon the
    secret to really enhancing this elixir's near-magical powers: sugar and ascorbic acid.

    Combined, the two help the body increase its absorption of catechins, the polyphenols at the heart of green tea's benefits. In fact, sugar and ascorbic acid can help get three times as many catechins into the bloodstream as drinking green tea by itself.

    And a great source of ascorbic acid – a form of vitamin C – is one that many people already use to enhance the flavor
    of their tea: lemon. If you don't like lemon, don't worry – you can get the same effect by drinking a cup of juice rich in vitamin C along with your tea.

    I told you about some of the latest studies on green tea just a couple of weeks ago, and how the benefits seem to cover everything from weight loss to longer lives.

    That list is already a long and impressive one… but would you believe that in the two weeks since I wrote that, it's gotten even longer? A kettleful of studies have emerged lately, showing that green tea may:

    • cut psychological stress by as much as 20 percent;
    • reduce the risk of death by pneumonia in women by 47 percent;
    • lower the risk of all types of blood cancer by 42 percent;
    • decrease the risk of lymphoid system cancers by 48 percent; and
    • lower the risk of gum disease.

    One study under way is looking at the possibility that green tea may help clear the HPV virus, lowering the risk for cervical cancer (and, if true, eliminate the need for potentially harmful HPV vaccines).

    The best way to get your green tea is to brew a fresh cup, add a drop a sugar – don't go overboard, sugar is still bad for you – and squeeze a fresh wedge of lemon into it. Avoid prepackaged green tea mix and bottled teas with added sugar
    and lemon flavor – it's not the same thing (and who knows if there's any actual lemon in that flavoring).

    You'll also want to drink it a couple of times a day to get the biggest boost – many of the studies are from Japan, which found the benefits really kick in at five cups a day… that's around two or three U.S. mugs.

    A lot of tea? Sure.

    But you get a lot of benefits in return.

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