Contraceptive pill 'can protect against some cancer types for 30 years'

Contraceptive pill research

Contraceptive pill research

Women who have taken the contraceptive pill are protected from some types of cancer for as long as 30 years, according to new research.

While the risk of some cancers, including breast and cervical cancer, is known to rise for women on the Pill, this effect disappears five years after they stop taking it.

And they were a fifth less likely to develop bowel cancer.

The researchers, from the University of Aberdeen, calculated that women who had taken the Pill were a third less likely than women who had never taken the drug to ever develop cancer of the ovaries or the endometrial - the lining of the womb.

"But, we also know that once a woman stops using the pill these increased risks start to fall back down while the reduced risk of ovarian and womb cancer continues".

"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".

The study, which has received funding from bodies including the Medical Research Council, Imperial Cancer Research Fund and the British Heart Foundation, published its latest findings in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Bowel cancer is diagnosed in roughly 15,500 women aa year, killing about half, and endometrial cancer affects more than 9,000, claiming over 2,000 lives annually.

Dr Iversen said her team did not look at the mechanism as that was not the aim of the study, and this is still an area of uncertainty.

"Millions of women worldwide who use the combined oral contraceptive pill should be reassured by this comprehensive research that they are not at increased risk of cancer as a result - and that taking the pill might actually decrease their risk of certain cancers", commented professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of Global Positioning System.

"We did not find any evidence of new cancer risks appearing later in life as women get older".

It was described as the longest-running study of its kind in the world.

"Specifically, pill users don't have an overall increased risk of cancer over their lifetime and that the protective effects of some specific cancers last for at least 30 years".

Additional oestrogen increases the risk of breast cancer and cervical cancer - the focus of research fears in the past.

The study is still ongoing and at the moment there has been no timescale put on it, even though 7,000 of the participants have died.

Added Dr Iversen: "Most women who choose to use oral contraceptives do not expose themselves to long term cancer harms".

"Instead, with some cancers, many women benefit from important reductions of risk that persist for many years after stopping".