Prevent cervical cancer with your toothpaste!?
OK, it's not quite that dramatic. But researchers recently
announced that a detergent currently used in toothpastes and
shampoos killed Human Papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is
transmitted sexually, and is cause of genital warts. It is believed to
trigger cervical cancer, in women who are exposed to it, even if
they never develop warts.
What is it?
The active ingredient, called Sodium dodecyl sulfate (or SDS)
killed HPV in a laboratory study. The researchers commented on
the low concentrations, and brief contact time needed to get the
desired results. Your average bottle of Herbal Essence shampoo
is 10% SDS. This study's potion of "HPV Kill" was 0.1%, or a
thousand times less. Furthermore, we already know SDS is
generally safe for skin and mucous membrane contact. "Mucous
membranes" is the name for the type of skin that lines the inside of
the mouth, vulva, and vagina. Whoa, they thought, it probably won't
irritate vaginal tissue, its cheap, don't need much, and it doesn't
take long to kill a likely cancer-causing virus!
Potential Problems with This "Miracle Cure"
Don't add Crest to your douche yet (in fact, don't douche). They
estimate 2-5 years before a product could be on the market. And
it's not just time--there are several potential problems to be
addressed. Needless to say, your vulva and vagina are not lab
benches. Viruses are actually very fragile and easily killed by many
things when exposed directly. But, in real life, they don't even get
exposed to things directly because they live inside your cells,
which protect them. We have millions of things (like air) that kill
AIDS in a lab, but none that work in people. The only opportunity is
to nab HPV is as they pass from one partner to another. And while
the tissue lining the vagina is similar to the mouth, the types of
normal bacteria that are housed there are not.
The first hurdle will be making sure SDS really doesn't irritate the
vulva and vagina directly. Secondly, that it does not destroy the
normal balance of bacteria and organisms in the vagina. Thirdly,
will it destroy HPV in real live woman? Even if this all works, will
women actually use it? Presumably, she would have to douche with
this concoction right after unprotected sex. Once the virus got
inside her cervical cells, it would be too late to get them. If it all
pans out--on-line sex and relationship advisers will be brimming
with advice on how to gracefully make that post-coital trip to the
bathroom and how to negotiate two wet spots.
The Bottom Line
- Common toothpaste ingredient has been shown to kill HPV in the lab.
- HPV, a sexually transmitted disease, is one possible cause of cervical cancer.
- Researchers must prove SDS will not disturb the normal vaginal environment.
- Researchers must prove SDS will kill HPV in women.
- Possible post-coital douche product in 2-5 years.