Do contraceptive pills prevent ovarian cancer?

Women can substantially reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by using birth control pills, finds a new study.

Experts found users of oral contraceptives had a 27 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with the dreaded malignancy in later years.

They also noted that the longer the pill was used the greater was the protection bestowed.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Laura Havrilesky at the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina stated, “It reinforces that there is a positive relationship between the use of oral contraceptives and ovarian cancer prevention in the general public. I think it adds some scientific weight to that relationship.”

Combined data from 24 studies reviewed
In a bid to analyze the influence of contraceptive use on ovarian cancer, the researchers reviewed combined data from 24 studies. They compared thousands of women who were on oral contraception over various lengths of time, at different ages with non-users.

The analysis revealed the pill provides substantial and long-lasting protection against ovarian cancer.

The investigators found women who take the pill for a decade or more nearly halve their risk of developing ovarian cancer as opposed to never-users.

Dr. Laura Havrilesky stated, “What we’ve got right now may be the best evidence that we ever are able to have. I don’t necessarily think that it is enough to tell a physician to have their patients use oral contraceptives solely for the purpose of preventing ovarian cancer.”

She added, “But I think it’s enough to say this is a possible advantage in women who are considering use of oral contraceptives” for birth control or other medical reasons.

A word of caution
Despite, the pill’s protective effects against ovarian cancer – one of the most dangerous types of cancer, medics feel women need to individualize their decisions based upon their family history and other risk factors. They might want to weigh the protection against increased breast cancer and cervical cancer (cancer of the neck of the womb) risk associated with hormonal contraceptives.

The hazard of developing ovarian cancer increases with age, especially in women who are past their menopause. Inherited faulty genes can also play a vital role and women who think they are vulnerable should consult their physician.

Early detection of ovarian cancer remains elusive, hence women should undergo medical evaluation if bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, feeling full quickly when eating and urinary frequency or urgency (early warning signs) persist for a couple of weeks or more.

Eduardo Franco, head of cancer epidemiology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada stated, “It is the sort of thing that requires a frank conversation between a woman and healthcare provider.”

The findings of the study are reported Wednesday in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

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