Higher cervical cancer risk for oral contraceptive users


London : Users of oral contraceptives are at increased risk of developing cervical cancer, according to a new study.

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But 10 years after stopping use, the risk returns to levels seen in those who have never used oral contraceptives, says an article in the latest edition of the medical journal The Lancet.

The study, by a team led by Jane Green of Oxford University, confirms previous evidence that among current users of oral contraceptives, the risk of invasive cervical cancer increases with duration of use — with those who have used contraceptives for five years or more having about twice the risk compared with never users.

For the first time, however, the study shows for how long this effect persists after oral contraceptive use stops.

“The incidence of cervical cancer increases with age and so the contribution of hormonal contraceptives to the lifetime incidence of cervical cancer will depend largely on the effects at older ages, when most women are past users,” the article says.

The authors also estimate that 10 years use of oral contraceptives from around age 20 to 30 years increases the cumulative incidence of invasive cervical cancer by age 50 from 3.8 to 4.5 per 1,000 women in more developed countries, and from 7.3 to 8.3 per 1,000 women in less developed countries.

The authors explain: “However, these results need to be seen in context — in the long term the extra risk of cervical cancer in oral contraceptive users is more than outweighed by a reduction in risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers.”