Oral Contraceptives Protect Against Ovarian Cancer, Study Finds

Oral contraceptives significantly protect women from ovarian cancer, a new report from Oxford finds. Dr. Valerie Beral, the lead author of the study, said in Science Daily: “Worldwide, the Pill has already prevented 200,000 women from developing cancer of the ovary and has prevented 100,000 deaths from the disease. More than 100 million women are now taking the Pill, so the number of ovarian cancers prevented will rise over the next few decades to about 30,000 per year.”

The report analyzes research from 45 previous studies of ovarian cancer worldwide, according to the BBC News, and found that oral contraceptives not only reduce the risk of death from ovarian cancer, but the protection from using oral contraceptives lasted 30 years after women stopped taking them.

Despite the substantial protection given against ovarian cancer given by oral contraceptives, the study did find that they cause a slight increase in breast cancer and cervical cancer. However, researchers found that the increase in breast and cervical cancers does not outweigh the decrease in ovarian cancer. The co-author of the study, Sir Richard Peto said in Science Daily, “Young women don’t have to worry about cancer from taking the Pill because the eventual reduction in ovarian cancer is bigger than any increase in other types of cancer caused by the Pill.”

Some researchers expressed hopes in The Lancet, the medical journal that published the report, that this study will pave the way for making oral contraceptives more easily available. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, told the BBC News, “We strongly endorse more widespread over-the-counter access to a preventative agent that can not only prevent cancers but also demonstrably save the lives of tens of thousands of women.”

To learn more, read the summary at The Lancet.


Science Daily 1/27/08; BBC News 1/25/08; US News and World Report 1/25/08; The Lancet 10/26/08

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