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Oral contraceptive pill linked to lower levels of cancers

Friday, March 31, 2017

National News

IPPF/Graeme Robertson/PalestineA 40 year study into the pill confirms that taking the pill reduces the chance of getting several types of cancer.

The Oral Contraception Study has revealed that women who use, or have ever used the pill, have a significantly lower rate of death from cancer as well as an overall lower risk of death than women who have not been taking the pill.

The study by the United Kingdom’s Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) followed 46,022 women for almost 40 years, totalling more than a million ‘woman years’ of observation.

The study found women who had used the pill had significantly lower rates of death from cancer, including bowel, rectal, uterine body, endometrial, ovarian and the main gynaecological cancers. More analysis of the data concluded that taking the pill led to:

  • A 19% lower risk of bowel cancer
  • A 34% lower risk of endometrial cancer
  • A 33% lower risk of ovarian cancer

In addition, the researchers found the protective effects of the pill lasted for more than 30 years after women stopped taking the pill.

Pill users also had significantly lower death rates from other illnesses such as circulatory disease, ischaemic heart disease, nervous system, mental disorders, genitourinary disorders, and endocrine and metabolic disorders.

Family Planning’s National Medical Advisor, Dr Christine Roke, says the study would be reassuring for women who take the pill and may have questioned whether there were health risks associated with it. 

“The research tells us that there is no increased risk of cancer from using oral contraceptives. In fact, taking the pill is likely to reduce your chance of developing a number of cancers and other illnesses,” says Dr Roke.  

“From a health perspective, not to mention for contraception, most of us would benefit from taking the pill.”

Established in 1968, the Oral Contraception Study is the world’s longest-running study into the effects of the pill, and will likely be particularly reassuring for women who used the first generation of the pill in the 1960s.

Read more about the Oral Contraception Study

Cover image: IPPF/Graeme Robertson/Palestine

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