According to one study, women who used oral contraceptives had a much lower risk of developing both ovarian and endometrial cancer. A large study from Uppsala University involving over 250,000 women found that using oral contraception protects against ovarian and endometrial cancer. The protective effect lasts for decades after the drug is no longer used. The findings have been published in the journal Cancer Research.
With a lifetime risk of just over 2%, ovarian and endometrial cancer are among the most common gynaecological cancers. Endometrial cancer is slightly more common, but because the symptoms are more obvious and thus often detected at an early stage, the mortality rate is low. However, ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers because it is frequently not detected until it has spread to other parts of the body.
A comprehensive study involving more than 250,000 women, shows that oral contraceptive use protects against ovarian and endometrial cancer. The protective effect remains for several decades after discontinuing the use.
The first oral contraceptive pill was approved in the 1960s, and 80 percent of all women in Western Europe have used them at some point in their lives. Oral contraceptives contain synthetic forms of the female sex hormones oestrogen and progestin. Oral contraceptives contain oestrogen and progestin, which prevent ovulation and thus protect against pregnancy.
Despite the fact that oral contraceptives (OCPs) have been available for approximately 60 years and have consistently been associated with a lower risk of subsequent ovarian and endometrial cancer across studies, data on time-dependent, long-term correlations between OCP use and breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer have been limited. This is due in part to the need for long-term follow-up to assess lifetime OCP-related cancer risk in women who started taking OCPs early in their reproductive years, given that the risk for breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer peaks later in life.
In the current study, the scientists compared the incidence of breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers between women that had used oral contraceptive pills and never users.
“Women who had used oral contraceptives had a significantly lower risk of developing both ovarian and endometrial cancer. The risk was approximately 50% lower fifteen years after discontinuing oral contraceptives. However, reduced risk was detected up to 30-35 years after discontinuation “One of the study’s leading researchers, S Johansson of Uppsala University’s Department of Immunology, Genetics, and Pathology, says
Oral contraceptive pills, on the other hand, have previously been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
“Surprisingly, we only found a small increased risk of breast cancer among oral contraceptive users, and the increased risk vanished after a few years,” Johansson says. “Our findings suggest that, even if there is an increased short-term risk, the lifetime risk of breast cancer may not differ between ever and never users.”
The current study’s findings are significant because oral contraceptive use has been linked to a variety of adverse effects, including deep vein thrombosis and breast cancer.
“We have demonstrated that, in addition to preventing pregnancy, oral contraceptive pills have other beneficial effects. Our findings may help women and doctors make more informed decisions about which women should use oral contraceptives “According to Therese Johansson, one of the study’s Ph.D. students.
Over the years, studies with smaller subject pools have asked similar questions about OCPs and cancer risk, but the results have been conflicting. There are several reasons for this, but one of the most difficult variables to identify and account for in such studies is the fact that OCPs are constantly changing.
In terms of chemical compounds and recommended dose, the OCP pill first approved in the 1960s differs dramatically from the pill of 2021, and OCPs that include both estrogen and progestin can be divided into approximately four generations based on the type of progesterone. As a result, it is critical not to extrapolate the findings of this study onto clinical outcomes for young women starting OCPs today. This current limitation, however, is only fueling the Uppsala team’s future research.