Do Birth Control Pills Also Reduce Ovarian Cancer Risk?

Using birth control may do more than just prevent pregnancies. New research indicates it may also help to stave off death from ovarian cancer.

Researchers analyzed data from the World Health Organization on deaths from ovarian cancer between 1970 and 2012 in nearly 50 countries.

Between 2002 and 2012, those deaths fell by 16% in the US and 10% in the EU, both places where birth control pills are commonly used, the researchers reported in the Annals of Oncology. However, in Japan, where birth control use is limited, the ovarian cancer death rate declined by just 2%.

However, it is important to note that the study was observational in nature. What this means is that it was not designed to show cause-and-effect, but to look back at existing data.

The researchers noted that other factors may have caused the decline in deaths, such as less use of hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms, as well as improved diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer.

Overall, the steepest declines in the death rate were in women between 20 and 49 years old. The researchers also predicted that if the death rate decline continues on its current trajectory, it will fall by another 15% in the US by 2020.

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