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Pill Offers a Lifetime of Protection Against Ovarian Cancer Study Says

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, January 24, 2008 10:24 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, Drug Products,


A study finds the birth control pill offers a lifetime of protection against ovarian cancer


The residual effect of taking birth control pills may protect women from developing ovarian cancer for 30 years.

That is the good news coming from British researchers Thursday who believe birth control pills may have prevented 100,000 cases of ovarian cancer deaths worldwide and may mean 30,000 new cases will be avoided annually.

Ovarian cancer is more common over the age of 50. 

Researchers found the longer a woman stayed on the birth control pill, the lower her risk of developing ovarian cancer. 

The research by University of Oxford scientists is published in the medical journal Lancet and verifies what’s long been known about birth control pills and ovarian cancer. But this study details how effective the pill is over a lifetime.  For a woman who takes the pill for 15 years, she cuts her risk of getting ovarian cancer in half.  

In this review of 45 studies, 23,000 women with ovarian cancer were included as well as 87,000 without ovarian cancer.   31 and 37 percent were on the pill.

Women who took the pill for a decade cut their risk of ovarian cancer form 12 per 1,000 to 8 per 1,000 at age 75.  The risk of dying from the disease decreased from 1 per 1,000 to 5 per 1,000. 

Ovarian cancer is often deadly because it can have no symptoms. 

Researchers say the benefits of the pill outweigh the risks. And the strength of the hormone in the pills did not seem to make a difference to the level of protection.  

Since the early 1960s it’s estimated that 300 million women have used contraceptive pills, which combine hormones to fool the body into thinking it’s pregnant, therefore the ovaries do not releasing an egg.  Suppression the ovaries’ function may explain why the pills prevent ovarian cancer. 

While the news is good concerning ovarian cancer, the news was not so good for breast and cervical cancer. The pill slightly increases the chances of contracting them but those risks reportedly disappear when the woman stops taking the pill.

Not only does the pill prevent pregnancy, but in the long term, you actually get less cancer as well," said Valerie Beral, the study's lead author and director of the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit at Oxford University. "It's a nice bonus."

Cancer Research UK and Britain's Medical Research Council paid for the study.

The impact will be widely felt as estimates are 100 million women around the world take contraceptive pills. There are more than 190,000 cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed a year and prognosis is poor.   

The study has calls for low dose pills to be available without a prescription as an over-the-counter remedy, something most doctors do not advise at this time because of risks of blood clots, high blood pressure and migraines among women in the late 30s and smokers.  #


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