Birth Control Pills May Help Shield Women from Uterine Cancer
A new study suggests women who are taking birth control pills to prevent unwanted pregnancy (or for other medical reasons), may also be protecting themselves from uterine cancer.
According to an article in HealthDay News, the study, conducted by a team led by Valerie Beral at the University of Oxford in England, found that for every five years of birth control use, women reduced their odds of contracting uterine cancer by approximately 25%. Furthermore, protection from taking birth control pills lasted well beyond the period in which the pills were consumed:
“The strong protective effect of oral contraceptives against endometrial cancer — which persists for decades after stopping the pill — means that women who use it when they are in their 20s or even younger continue to benefit into their 50s and older, when cancer becomes more common,” Beral said in a news release from the journal The Lancet Oncology. The study was published in the journal Aug. 4.
As part of their research, Beral’s team analyzed data from 36 studies involving a total of more than 27,000 women with uterine cancer around the world.
While the study couldn’t prove cause-and-effect, the results show that every five years of birth control pill use cut the odds of uterine cancer by about one-quarter.
Study findings were consistent, even in cases where low-estrogen pills were used:
Levels of the hormone estrogen in birth control pills have also decreased substantially over the years, the authors said. Pills in the 1960s typically contained more than double the amount of estrogen than pills in the 1980s did.
Even so, the reduction in uterine cancer risk was at least as large for women who used birth control pills in the 1980s as for those who used them in the 1960s, the research showed.
This suggests that estrogen amounts in lower-dose pills are still sufficient to reduce the risk of uterine cancers, Beral’s team said.
They also found that a woman’s reproductive history, amount of body fat, alcohol and tobacco use, or ethnicity had little effect on the amount of protection birth control pills provide against uterine cancer.
The decision to take birth control pills should only be made after first speaking with your medical provider. If you have questions about birth control medication, including its potential risks and benefits, please visit any Owens Healthcare Location and ask to speak with one of our helpful pharmacists.