Viral Induced CancersNovember 2018
By William Faloon
Most people associate viruses with the flu or common cold.
Few understand that viruses cause about 15% of all cancers.1,2
One such virus is oral human papillomavirus (HPV). It is present in 1 of every 9 American men.3
HPV mutates cellular DNA in a way that causes certain cancers.
In women, this usually manifests as cervical malignancies4 that can be screened for (Pap smear) and are easy to cure when caught early.5
In men, HPV infection is causing more head and neck cancers than it does cervical cancers in women. Head and neck cancers are not as easy to screen for and require toxic treatments.6,7
Head and neck cancers (oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma) are more common in men than in women. They have increased 300% in men over the past 20 years.3,7 A prime culprit is HPV infection.
For those who abstain from sex or are in monogamous relationships, their risk of HPV is lower. Those with multiple partners are at high risk, especially males.
This editorial describes risk factors behind head and neck cancers as well as what may be done to circumvent viral-induced malignancies.
Actor Michael Douglas was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2010.
As with other benevolent celebrities (like Suzanne Somers and Ben Stiller, who let the world know about their health issues), Michael Douglas went on national TV to warn that head and neck cancers are no longer confined to tobacco users.
Michael Douglas made it clear that his head and neck cancer was not caused by tobacco, but instead by his (promiscuous) lifestyle.
He described the chronic throat pain he endured during and after harsh radiation treatments, which appear to have been curative. Many patients undergo both surgery and radiation.
Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase Bank, found himself in a similar predicament in 2014, and he has been apparently put into a complete response with conventional treatment.
Head and neck cancers have been historically linked to alcohol and tobacco use, but HPV is increasingly the underlying culprit.
More than 64,000 Americans (47,650 men/17,040 women) will develop head and neck cancer this year.8
Most are over age 50 when diagnosed.8
An estimated 13,000 deaths will occur from head and neck cancer this year.8
To put this in perspective, about 50,000 Americans die annually of colorectal cancer.9
Colorectal cancer death rates are declining for reasons that include better screening and healthier diets.9
Head and neck cancers are surging. Of the estimated 13,000 annual deaths from this malignancy, about 10,000 occur in men and 3,000 in women.8
Yet there is little advocacy for head and neck cancer prophylaxis or screening.
Risk Factors for Head and Neck Cancers
In earlier decades, head and neck cancers were rare except among those who used tobacco or indulged in excessive alcohol ingestion.10
Over the past several decades, physicians began noting a growing number of newly diagnosed patients with head and neck cancer that never smoked and were not heavy drinkers.11,12
What many of these head and neck cancer patients have in common are multiple sex partners. This enables a dangerous strain of human papillomavirus (HPV-16) to be continuously transmitted.12
The only encouraging news about HPV-induced head and neck cancers is that they respond better to conventional therapy than head and neck cancers caused by tobacco. (This is because HPV-16 damages DNA differently than tobacco.)11,13
This is of little consolation when one considers the pain of surgery, high-intensity radiation therapy, and the risks for secondary cancers that radiation creates.
Magnitude of Risk Increase
Tobacco and alcohol consumption are still the main risk factors for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.14
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection also plays a causative role in head and neck cancers that occur in the oro-pharynx.15-18
The oropharynx is part of the throat and includes the base of tongue, tonsils, soft palate, and the cavity behind nose and mouth that connects to the esophagus.
A study published in 2017 assessed the independent effects of tobacco, alcohol, and HPV infection on the risk of oropharyngeal cancer, a common head and neck cancer. The results found:19
- Heavy smoker (no HPV) →1.9-fold greater odds
- Heavy drinker (no HPV) →2.7-fold greater odds
- Heavy smoker (+ HPV) →49-fold greater odds
- Heavy drinker (+HPV) →51-fold greater odds
This magnitude of increased risk associated with HPV infection among heavy smokers and drinkers shown above is startling.
The question most readers of this magazine may ask is what about those who don’t smoke or heavily drink, but nonetheless are persistently exposed to HPV-16.
Another 2017 study provided unsettling data for some of us. After adjusting for smoking, alcohol, and low education, those infected with HPV-16 had a:20
- 4-fold greater odds of overall head and neck cancers
- 10-fold greater odds of oropharyngeal cancer
Oropharyngeal refers to the roof of the mouth, the tongue, tonsils, and part of the throat behind the mouth and nasal cavity.
HPV-16 infection is implicated as a causative factor behind oropharyngeal cancers, even in those who don’t smoke or heavily ingest alcohol.
In some regions, HPV strains are thought to cause up to 60% of oropharyngeal cancers. This has resulted in an increased incidence among younger non-smokers that has been equated to as “epidemic” by some investigators.21
How Some Young People Avoid HPV
Eleven million American men are now infected with oral human papillomavirus.3
According to a 2017 report, the most likely to be infected are those who have had multiple oral sexual partners or who also have genital HPV infection.3
When looking at current promiscuous sexual behaviors, a significant percentage of the male population is at risk for HPV-induced cancers.
Yet most of the public has no idea that cancer can be caused by this readily transmissible virus (HPV-16 and variants).
Younger people have access to the HPV vaccine that is partially effective in preventing cancers of the cervix, genitals, and anus, along with head and neck cancer. Some groups are vociferously against HPV vaccines because of side effect concerns.
Older individuals who have already been infected by HPV-16 do not appear to benefit from the vaccine.3
What Older People Should Do
Those who are in monogamous relationships or who abstain from contact with other people are at lower risk of persistent HPV infection.
Unlike chronic viruses (such as cytomegalovirus), a healthy immune system often clears HPV-16 before it inflicts enough DNA mutations to cause cancer.
For those who have had chronic HPV exposure, but follow healthy lifestyles, there is some encouraging news to report.
Our Life Extension® staff reviewed a large volume of data to ascertain if there were validated ways to protect against HPV-induced cancers.
To our surprise, the healthy diet and supplement programs most of you already follow appear to offer a degree of protection.
HPV-16 mutates DNA in ways that are different from the DNA damage inflicted by tobacco.
Nutrients like folate,22 lycopene,23 and cruciferous vegetable extracts (indole-3-carbinol24 and sulforaphane25) appear to help protect against viral-induced DNA damage.
We’ve long advocated the periodic use of cimetidine, a low-cost drug that requires no prescription, to boost immune function and suppress viral activity.26
Those who may be chronically exposed to HPV and other viruses may consider 800 mg of cimetidine each night for 1–2 months each year. Cimetidine should not be taken continuously as it can cause side effects in some people.
It is important to remember that HPV is often (but not always) cleared from the body. Persistent exposure to new HPV infections, however, results in chronic mutations to our cellular DNA that can lead to cancers.
Why Men Are More Vulnerable to Oral HPV Infection
HPV can survive in the flat, thin cells on the surface of the skin, cervix, vagina, anus, vulva, penis, mouth, and throat.7
The virus is spread through contact with infected skin, mucous membranes, and bodily fluids.7 This includes during intercourse or oral sex, as actor Michael Douglas pointed out years ago.
Virtually all sexually active people will acquire HPV at some point. The virus is usually wiped out by the immune system before it can sufficiently damage DNA to cause cancer.
In women, HPV infection usually sets off an antibody response that destroys the invader and then maintains immune cells that are ready to attack if HPV reappears.
Men do not usually mount this aggressive antibody response.
A study titled The HPV Infection in Men collected genital, anal, and oral samples from over 4,000 (unvaccinated) men between 2005 and 2009. These samples were analyzed for two high-risk HPV subtypes and two that cause genital warts.
For this analysis, a sub-cohort of 384 men were studied. They had any of these HPV-subtypes and had not produced antibodies at the time of detection.28
Within 36 months following HPV detection in this sub-cohort, only 35 produced anti-HPV antibodies.28
This meager response rate varied depending on the site of infection. Most disconcerting was that none of the orally HPV-infected men produced antibodies.
To reiterate, men in this study who were orally infected with HPV produced no anti-HPV anti-bodies.
This lack of antibody response reduced the ability of men to clear HPV and increased the risk of getting infected with the same HPV type again.
One of the researchers overseeing this study at the Moffitt Cancer Center (Tampa, Florida) said recurring infections in some people may be due to reactivation of dormant virus or from the spreading of HPV infection from one part of the body to another, or from something yet to be discovered.7
The science behind this HPV/cancer epidemic is still evolving. Men up to 26 years of age may benefit from a four-virus-based vaccine that reduces infection with HPV-6, HPV-11, HPV-16, and HPV-18.29
How Older Men Might Generate an Antibody Response
DHEA is a hormone that initially demonstrated immune-enhancing benefits, including improved antibody responses to vaccines.30
Subsequent studies yielded inconsistent results as it related to improving antibody response to vaccines administered to elderly persons (who all likely suffered immune senescence).31,32
As it relates to HPV infection, DHEA has been shown to inhibit cervical cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner. One study found that DHEA induced cell death via apoptosis in HPV-infected cells. The authors of this 2009 study boldly concluded that “DHEA could therefore be used as an alternative in the treatment of cervical cancer.”33
An intriguing pilot trial published in 2003 studied the effects of intra-vaginal DHEA in women with low-grade cervical dysplasia, a precursor to cervical cancer.
In this study, 12 women with low-grade dysplasia were given 150 mg of intravaginal micronized DHEA daily. After 6 months, 10 of the 12 women (83%) had no evidence of dysplasia. The remaining 2 had normal exams showing atypical cells of undetermined significance. These results suggest that intra-vaginal DHEA may promote regression of low-grade cervical lesions.34
While these studies focused on cervical cancers, they provide intriguing clues for the many of our male readers who supplement with DHEA to help maintain immune competence.
With age, DHEA levels plummet. Men who take 25 mg of DHEA a day usually restore levels of this hormone back up to youthful ranges.
Women sometimes need only 15 mg of DHEA daily to maintain youthful DHEA levels.
As discussed in the box on the next page, many of the nutrients and supplements taken regularly by readers of this magazine appear to confer some protective effect against HPV-induced malignancies.
Other Pesky Viruses
HPV is not the only cancer-causing virus.
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been implicated in Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as stomach and nasopharyngeal cancers.35-38 EBV is often a persistent viral infection.
Shingles is caused by a herpes virus that reactivates as we undergo immune senescence.39 Although the herpes virus that causes shingles lies dormant in our nerves before reactivation, shingles causes very painful skin lesions.
Another herpes-family infection most adults harbor is cytomegalovirus. This virus accelerates immune senescence by depleting our pool of naïve T-cells.40-43 Active cytomegalovirus infections decrease human lifespan by several years.44,45
As it relates to sexually transmitted viruses, HIV is what terrifies people most. Yet HIV is still relatively rare in most population groups.
Hepatitis B and C viruses cause liver cancer.46 (Hepatitis C is curable with drugs like Sovaldi®.)47
We at Life Extension are poring over newly published literature to identify better methods of boosting immunity and/or purging the body of chronic viral infections that worsen as immune function deteriorates with age.
An Overlooked Epidemic
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013–2014), more than 45% of men are infected with genital HPV.51
Genital HPV is more common than the oral type. About 40% of women carry genital HPV.51
Genital HPV can cause cancer of the anus, penis, and vagina. Vaginal HPV causes about 70% of all cases of cervical cancer.52
Oral HPV infection is causing head and neck malignancy rates to surge, especially in men.
Many of you reading this may have little risk of HPV infection(s), while others have been exposed to numerous strains of cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr, and other viruses.
Aggressive immune system vigilance is imperative in higher risk individuals.
An article on page 66 of this month’s issue suggests non-prescription approaches to boosting immune function.
For longer life,
William Faloon, Co-Founder
Life Extension Buyers Club
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