There always seems to be a new study around the pill. Researchers in the medical community have found the pill is linked to everything from depression to a possible increase in breast cancer or a stroke. More than 150 million women around the world use it, and we’re never short of hearing about its successes and failures from our friends. For every woman who swears by it, there’ll be another who says it did nothing for her skin and only worsened her monthly cramps.
And with so much noise surrounding the subject, you may have missed the recent news this week that is worth reading.
The University of Aberdeen published research stating that the contraceptive pill can protect women from certain types of cancer. The study found that pill users were less likely to develop colorectal, endometrial, and ovarian cancers than those who had never taken the pill. Researchers discovered that one in three women taking the pill “during their reproductive years” were protected from developing ovarian and endometrial cancers, while one in five were protected from colorectal cancer.
The reason this particular study is so important is because this is the biggest study of its kind. The findings are part of the Oral Contraception Study, which was launched by the Royal College of General Practitioners in 1968, to start a long-term investigation into the pill. The researchers gathered results from 46,000 women – half of them on the pill, half of them not – whom they monitored over a 44-year period.
“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,” Lisa Iverson, PhD, lead author of the study, explained. “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 of using the pill during their reproductive years are lasting for at least 30 years after women have stopped using the pill.”
“Our study focused only on the very long term effects of the pill on cancer,” Iversen added. “We did not find evidence of new cancer risks appearing later in life – the time when cancer becomes more common in women, so we believe our study findings are reassuring for women who have chosen to use the pill during their reproductive years.”
And while all the above is very positive, that isn’t to say that the information should be taken as an assumption that women should be given the pill as a preventative measure against cancer, because as we know, a minority of women can suffer adverse health effects as a result of taking the pill and some may be unable to take it at all.
However, the findings at least provide us with more information (always important) and some positive links to contraception and cancer.