A separate study reported a decade later showed that women with the highest levels of circulating iron (ferritin) are more likely to have persistent oncogenic HPV infections than women with low circulating iron levels.3

The authors concluded that higher iron stores might facilitate viral activity, reducing the body’s ability to clear HPV infections. Yet because that study involved serum measures of ferritin and not dietary iron intake per se, it is not clear that dietary iron intake from food or supplements modulates HPV infection persistence or HPV-associated cancer risk.

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A large longitudinal 4-year dietary questionnaire study of 1248 adult men in Brazil, reported in 2017, found that men with transient oncogenic HPV-strain infections consume more dietary retinol (P = .008), vitamin A, (P < .001) and folate (dietary folate equivalent; P = .003) than men with persistent oncogenic HPV infections.1

The study authors also reported that men with non-persistent oncogenic HPV infections had lower dietary intake of lycopene (P = .008) and dietary energy overall (P = .005) compared to men with persistent infections.

For non-oncogenic HPV-strain infections, dietary vitamin B12 levels were associated with persistent infection. That study did not, however, involve plasma nutrient measurements, and it is possible that self-reported dietary intake and circulating nutrient concentrations are different.

Evidence Against

In the 2002 study, dietary food intake levels of folate, vitamin B6, and methionine did not predict HPV infection persistence.

In the 2017 Brazilian study, despite the association between transient HPV infections and retinol, vitamin A, and folate intake, no specific dietary nutrient was significantly associated with persistent oncogenic HPV infection per se among Brazilian men.


While there is some evidence that dietary intake may influence the persistence of oncogenic and non-oncogenic HPV infection, more research is needed to determine a strong causal link between particular nutrients and viral persistence.


  1. Lopes RD, Teixeira JA, Marchioni D, Villa LL, Giuliano AR, Baggio ML. Dietary intake of selected nutrients and persistence of HPV infection in men. Int J Cancer. 2017 May 9. doi: 10.1002/ijc.30772 [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Sedio RL, Inserra P, Abrahamsen M, et al. Human papillomavirus persistence and nutrients involved in the methylation pathway among a cohort of young women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2002;11(4):353-9.
  3. Siegel EM, Patel N, Lu B, et al. Circulating biomarkers of iron storage and clearance of incident human papillomavirus infection. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2012;21(5):859-65.