Contraceptive pill ‘can ward off cancer’ in women

Women who have used the pill are less likely to have bowel cancer, endometrial cancer or ovarian cancer. Picture: TSPL
Women who have used the pill are less likely to have bowel cancer, endometrial cancer or ovarian cancer. Picture: TSPL
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Women who have taken the contraceptive pill are protected from some types of cancer for as long as 30 years, according to research.

Those who have used the pill are less likely to have bowel cancer, endometrial cancer or ovarian cancer than women who had never taken it, a study at the University of Aberdeen found.

Researchers also looked at the risk of all types of cancer in women who have taken the pill during their reproductive years and found it does not lead to new cancer risks later in life.

The results are the latest published from the longest-running study in the world into the effects of taking the contraceptive pill.

Established by the Royal College of General Practitioners’ in 1968, the Oral Contraception Study was set up to look at the long-term health effects of oral contraceptives.

The latest study, led by Dr Lisa Iversen, relates to 46,000 women followed for up to 44 years.

Dr Iversen, research fellow in the Institute of Applied Health Sciences at the university, said: “Because the study has been going for such a long time we are able to look at the very long-term effects, if there are any, associated with the pill.

“What we found from looking at up to 44 years’ worth of data was that having ever used the pill, women are less likely to get colorectal, endometrial and ovarian cancer.

“So, the protective benefits from using the pill during their reproductive years are lasting for at least 30 years after women have stopped using the pill.

“We were also interested in what the overall balance of all types of cancer is amongst women who have used the pill as they enter the later stages of their life. We did not find any evidence of new cancer risks appearing later in life as women get older. These results from the longest-running study in the world into oral contraceptive use are reassuring.

“Specifically, pill users don’t have an overall increased risk of cancer over their lifetime.”

Dr Iversen said it was too early to draw any firm conclusions on whether women at higher risks of developing certain types of cancers should take contraceptive pills as a preventative measure.

She said: “Women should use the pill for its original purpose which is for contraception. Before we could recommend using a drug for a new reason, such as using the pill to prevent cancer, there needs to be stronger evidence of all the risks and benefits, ideally through clinical trials.”

The study published its latest findings in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.