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New study reports link between low vitamin D status and HPV among women in the U.S.

Posted on: March 14, 2016   by  Amber Tovey


A recent study found that for every 10 ng/ml decrease of vitamin D status, there was a 14% increased risk of developing high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) infection among sexually active women.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV can develop from having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who already has the virus. There are over 100 varieties of HPV with approximately 40 types that can infect the cervico-vaginal region. In most cases, HPV disappears on its own and does not cause health problems. However, when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer.

Individuals can reduce their risk of developing HPV by getting vaccinated and using protection. The vaccine protects against HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18, the four HPV types that are responsible for the vast majority of HPV associated disease. A new vaccine was approved for protection against 9 HPV types in December 2014. In addition, routine screening for women aged 21 to 65 years old is recommended.

Vitamin D plays a large role in the immune system by increasing the expression of anti-microbial peptides and activating killer T cells to detect and destroy invading pathogens. Therefore, researchers recently hypothesized that low vitamin D status is linked to an increased risk for HPV.

In order to test this hypothesis, the researchers examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2003-2006). At this time, none of the HPV vaccines were introduced.

The researchers studied a total of 2,353 sexually active women with available testing results of cervicovaginal HPV infection status and vitamin D status. The analysis focused on tumor causing HPV types and the four types that are prevented by vaccine, which they referred to as “vaccine type HPV infection.”

Here is what the researchers found after adjusting results for age, race/ethnicity and marital status:

  • The odds of high-risk HPV infection increased per each 10 ng/ml decrease of vitamin D status by 14%.
  • The odds of vaccine type HPV infection were nearly tripled in women with severe vitamin D deficiency as defined by levels less than 12 ng/ml compared to those with levels of 30 ng/ml or greater (aOR 2.90; 95% CI, 1.32 – 6.38).
  • The odds of vaccine type HPV infection were more than doubled in women with vitamin D deficiency defined by levels between 12 and 19 ng/ml compared to women with levels of 30 ng/ml or greater (aOR 2.19; 95% CI, 1.98 – 4.45).
  • The odds of vaccine type HPV infection were more than doubled in women with vitamin D insufficiency defined by levels between 20-29 ng/ml compared to women with levels of 30 ng/ml or greater (aOR 2.19, 95% CI, 1.22 – 3.393).

The researchers concluded,

“In conclusion, results from this US nationally representative sample support the hypothesis that vitamin D status, assessed by serum 25(OH)D levels, is inversely associated with prevalence of cervicovaginal HPV infection in sexually active women.”

The study design was cross-sectional, meaning the study could not prove causality. On the other hand, the study also had its strengths. It consisted of a very large sample representative of the U.S. population. Lastly, the study adjusted for multiple confounding variables.


Tovey, A. & Cannell, JJ. New study reports link between low vitamin D status and HPV among women in the U.S. The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, February, 2016.


Shim, J. et al. The Association between Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and Human Papillomavirus Cervicovaginal Infection in Women in the United States. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2016.

5 Responses to New study reports link between low vitamin D status and HPV among women in the U.S.

  1. [email protected]

    Way back in 2014 a study treated HPV with vitamin D http://vitamindwiki.com/tiki-index.php?page_id=5036. Much better than just an association

    • Amber Tovey

      Hi Henry,

      Thanks for the additional information! I always enjoy reading your site.

      While the study you mentioned yielded very significant and promising findings, the participants were affected by the following infections,

      “Of the two hundred patients 51 had an infection with G. vaginalis, E. coli and/or coccus (Streptococcus, Staphylococcus), 44 patients mainly with coccus (Streptococcus, Staphylococcus), 16 patients mainly with G. vaginalis. 45 patients had a C. trachomatis infection, partially combined with bacterial mixed and/or fungal infection.”

      Though, the study did state that many of these women had high risk of HPV, and that many of these women were no longer at a high risk for HPV after supplementing with vitamin D. I do not believe the study showed that vitamin D supplementation treated HPV directly. Hopefully a clinical trial investigates this topic further.


      Amber Tovey

    • drchiptravis

      Dr. Tovey, please note that mentioning the HPV vaccine without noting that there are dangers associated with it, including death and serious neurological conditions, is not full disclosure. A source of information is the National Vaccine Information Center, website TheVaccineReaction,org. If we who know of the value of vitamin D3 supplements and sunlight exposure don’t avail ourselves of other natural and alternative health information, we cannot expect those others to seek our knowledge. Thank you for all you do in expanding the vitamin D3 information.

      [email protected]

  2. Rita Celone Umile

    It’s my opinion that cervical dysplasia is related to Folate and B12 deficiencies. It boggles my mind why physicians do not recommend supplementation with these co-enzymes upon the patient’s very first positive pap smear. Usually there is ample time from first sign of dysplasia to treatment to see if correcting for Folate and B12 deficiencies will resolve the problem. In other words: between that first pap smear and that 2nd and 3rd and 4th pap smear, why not have your patient supplement with Folate and B12? I might be off base, but I highly doubt it.


    Also, we should be very careful with vaccinations in general. Did you know that a case of childhood mumps just might protect a woman from a certain strain of ovarian cancer? I don’t think that the MMR vaccination confers that same benefit. Oh well….let’s just go ahead and vaccinate anyways. (We just don’t know what we don’t know, but who cares?)


    Taken from that above link:

    “Conclusion: Mumps parotitis may lead to expression and immune recognition of a tumor-associated form of MUC1 and create effective immune surveillance of ovarian cancer cells that express this form of MUC1.”

  3. Rita Celone Umile

    And HURRAY for Herpes (or at least Chicken Pox). Let’s really be thoughtful about vaccinations.

    We really know so very little. For those of you reluctant to click on the below link, suffering thru Chicken Pox might just protect you from brain cancer:


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