Women who take more oral contraceptive are less prone to developing ovarian cancer says research.
The association between birth control pills and reduced rate of ovarian cancer is no longer new.
Recently, study indicates that the newer forms of oral contraceptive heighten the protection level.
The research was carried out in young women. The study aimed at indicating the impact of these new forms or versions of contraceptives on rates of cancer of the ovary in women
So what’s the difference between the newer and older contraceptives?
Definitely, there’s a difference! The newer version contains reduced sides of estrogen and older progestogens.
The researchers discovered that the newer forms of the pill does not only reduce the chances of ovarian cancer but provides higher protective benefits with longer duration of use.
Lisa Iversen, Ph.D., a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and lead author of the study stated “We found a reduced risk of ovarian cancer in current or recent users of hormonal contraceptives than in former users. The reduction in risk became stronger the longer time period hormonal contraceptives were used, and the reduced risk remained several years after stopping,”
“We knew from previous studies of the association between combined oral contraceptives and ovarian cancer, so our results might have been expected. However, previous studies were based on women who were mostly older than reproductive age and therefore former users of oral contraceptives who would have used older products,” she said.
“It was necessary to conduct our study to investigate whether hormonal contraceptive use in women currently of reproductive age would still be associated with a reduced risk of ovarian cancer,” Iversen said.
How was the research conducted?
Iversen and her colleagues collected data from almost 1.9 million women aged between 15 and 49 in Denmark.
The women were placed into three categories:
- Women who had never used the pill.
- Current or recent users of the pill who had stopped in the past 12 months, and
- Former users who had stopped taking the pill for more than 12 months.
Combined oral contraceptives accounted for 86 percent of use of hormonal contraceptives.
The researchers took into consideration factors like age, family history of ovarian cancer, and education.
At the end, of the research, the researchers discovered that ovarian cancer rates were highest among the women who had never taken the pill.
Women who had taken the pill were found to have lower rates of ovarian cancer.
Based on the findings, the researchers estimate that hormonal contraceptives prevented about 21 percent of ovarian cancers among the women who took the oral contraceptive pill.
The researchers didn’t find firm evidence of a protective effect against ovarian cancer for women who had taken progestogen-only products. But Iversen says only a small sample of women in the study exclusively used such forms of birth control pills, so the data may not be strong enough to give a good indication.
There exist about 61 million women of reproductive age in the United States.
The Various Types Of Birth Control
Experts say that about 9 million women out of the 61 million make use of birth control pills.
In 2018, the American Cancer Society estimates 22,000 women in the United States will receive a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, and 14,000 will die from the condition.
Today, ovarian cancer is the fifth cause of cancer deaths among women. It leads to more deaths than any other form of cancer of the female reproductive system.
Nearly all research on birth control pills and cancer has been observational and therefore can’t definitively prove whether the pill can prevent (or cause) cancer.
In line with the National Cancer Institute, studies have provided consistent evidence that for women who take birth control pills, risks of breast and cervical cancers increase, and risks of endometrial, ovarian, and colorectal cancer decrease.
Researchers have hypothesized a number of potential reasons why the birth control pill is associated with lower risks of some cancers.
In the case of ovarian cancer, it’s likely because it suppresses ovulation.
Dr. Gary Scott Leiserowitz, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California at Davis stated “The total number of ovulation cycles that a woman has in her reproductive life is correlated with the risk of ovarian cancer. Anything that decreases the number of ovulations is associated with decreased risk of ovarian cancer. Such as pregnancy, breastfeeding, and use of the oral contraceptive pill. The benefits of oral contraceptive pills fade with time after the woman is no longer using the pill,”
Cancer and the contraceptives
Past research has indicated that women who use oral contraceptives have a 30 to 50 percent lower risk of developing ovarian cancer when compared with women who have never taken the pill.
This protection increases with the number of times a woman takes birth control pills.
Previous study conducted with older forms of the birth control pill show that this protective benefit can stay as long as 30 years after a woman stops using it.
Iversen’s study didn’t outline the duration of protective effects of contemporary versions of the birth control pill, because the study didn’t include the examination of older women. But Iversen believes the findings should still be of value to younger women.
She further said “Our findings of a reduced risk of ovarian cancer associated with contemporary combined oral contraceptives are reassuring for women currently of reproductive age,”
Gynecologic cancer risks
There’s no way to reliably and simply screen for any gynecologic cancer with the exception of cervical cancer
Many ovarian cancers aren’t found until they’ve spread, because it’s symptoms can be mistaken for many other things. It’s symptoms include back pain, bloating, vaginal bleeding, and discharge.
Dr. Dineo Khabele, director of the division of gynecologic oncology at the University of Kansas Medical Center stated that “There is no good screening test for ovarian cancer, which is the deadliest gynecologic cancer. We need to use whatever tools we have available to prevent it from developing. Oral contraceptive pills are one of these tools that are often overlooked,”
Later versions of the birth control pill provide more protective benefits against ovarian cancer than older versions of the pill.
The reduced risk was strengthened with longer use of oral contraceptives.
The benefit doesn’t fade away until after many years of not using the pill.