AHCC: Natural Treatment for HPV?
A recent study looked at AHCC as a potential natural treatment for HPV (human papillomavirus). It examined the immune support supplement’s effect on two specific strains of the virus; the researchers concluded that daily dosing of AHCC successfully eradicated the expression of these strains in mice and may have a role in the prevention of HPV-related cancer.
Why is this so significant?
Facts about HPV:
- HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) and it is so common that nearly all sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV and that about 14 million people become newly infected each year.
- Further, the two most common types of cervical cancer worldwide, squamous cell carcinoma followed by adenocarcinoma, are both caused by HPV.
AHCC As A Potential Natural Treatment for HPV Strains Identified as “High Risk”
Currently, over 100 strains of the HPV virus have been identified. However, only about 40 of those 100 strains are considered “high risk.” It is these high-risk strains that can cause low-grade cervical cell abnormalities, high-grade cervical cell abnormalities that are precursors to cancer, and anogenital cancers.
Within those 40 "high risk" strains two specific strains—HPV-16 and HPV-18—account for about 70% of cervical cancers. It was those two strains tested in the study that showed that AHCC could potentially be a natural treatment to HPV. However, additional studies would need to be conducted to confirm.
Further, studies have demonstrated that those with HPV 16/18 show a greater tendency to develop cancer if they also suffer from a weakened or compromised immune system.
AHCC has been shown to naturally boost the immune system by turning up the dial on the immune system and increasing the number of several types of white blood cells (including Natural Killer Cells, macrophages, dendritic cells and T Cells).
A Closer Look: Study Methods and Results
The study looked at two different possible methods of using AHCC as an alternative treatment to HPV and compared these with a control (animals that did not receive AHCC).
The first method involved in vitro treatment with a single dose of AHCC for a 72-hour incubation period. AHCC successfully suppressed HPV expression in the first 24 hours, however HPV expression recovered by the 48 hour mark.
The second method involved continuous in vitro exposure with daily treatments for 90 days; in this case expression of HPV was eradicated with no detection of HPV expression even after 30 days off treatment.
Further, daily AHCC treatment was associated with a 15.9% decrease in HPV 16/18 positive (SiHa) tumor growth when compared to the untreated control.
Additional studies will be needed to test AHCC as an effective treatment for HPV—however a confirmatory pilot study in HPV positive women is currently underway.
Current Treatments for HPV
Currently the CDC website states that there is no existing treatment for the HPV virus itself; instead, treatments exist for the individual health problems HPV can cause.
The conditions most commonly caused by the various strains of HPV include:
- Genital Warts
- Cervical Cancer
- Other HPV-related Cancers
- Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis (although RRP is extremely rare)
Genital warts can be removed with treatments applied by a healthcare provider or the person himself; no one treatment has been shown to be better than another. In fact, some people choose not to treat the warts at all; if left untreated genital warts may go away, stay the same, or grow in size or number. It’s worth noting that the strains of HPV associated with genital warts are considered “low risk.”
Cervical Cancer and other HPV-related cancers, as with most types of cancer, are most treatable when they are diagnosed and treated early. Cervical cancer is most commonly identified from an abnormal pap smear.
Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis (RRP) is a disease in which tumors grow in the air passages leading from the nose and mouth into the lungs (respiratory tract). It is typically considered fairly rare and can be treated with surgery or medicines. Curing RRP can sometimes require many treatments or surgeries over a period of years.
This makes the study results of even greater importance. If the additional human study confirms the existing results, AHCC could be a treatment option that successfully eradicates the expression of HPV 16/18, allowing for those additional problems—up to and including cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers—to be prevented.
Please note that AHCC is not intended to replace the HPV vaccine. The best approach to cancer prevention is to prevent the HPV infection all together, which is currently with appropriate vaccination and education about preventing exposure.