A new study finds that women who take birth control pills at any time in their lives can significantly reduce their likelihood of being diagnosed with a highly fatal type of ovarian cancer.
Researchers at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the University at Buffalo have concluded that women who used birth control can cut the chances of being diagnosed with aggressive ovarian cancer by 46 percent.Read More
The reason oral contraceptives can reduce cancer risk is that they prevent ovulation. “Each time a woman releases an egg, there can be tissue damage, and when there is tissue damage it needs to be repaired. With each repair there is potential for spontaneous mutations. But if you don't ovulate, there is no damage, and that's why we think it's so consistently protective,” says Dr. Moysich.
The study used information from twenty prior studies, which together included 579 patients who died within twelve months of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Researchers compared that population with more than two thousand patients who did not have ovarian cancer, to control for outside factors that might have impacted risk but might also be unrelated to contraceptives, such as age and whether patients had given birth. The study also included a group of 1294 patients who died within 18 months of an aggressive ovarian cancer diagnosis. The study compared this group to more than five thousand people who did not have ovarian cancer.
For ovarian cancer at large, oral contraceptives reduce risk, especially in women who have had children, according to Dr. Jonathon Berek, the Laurie Kraus Lacob Professor at Stanford University and the Stanford Cancer Institute, and the director of the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center. “If women have taken the birth control pill for up to five years and have had two children, they may reduce their risk by as much as 70% of getting the most common type of ovarian, fallopian tube cancer,” he says. “If [women] have a choice of what kind of birth control to use, then the oral contraceptive would be the contraceptive of choice to reduce the risk,” says Dr. Berek.