Birth control, and the idea of contraceptives are often the center of controversy. Many people, usually those who don't use birth control, don't see all the benefits it has outside of just preventing pregnancy. There are many people who take birth control for medical reasons like heavy periods, endometriosis, PCOS, or skin problems. And now, there is another benefit of taking birth control: there has been a link between birth control use and a lessened chance of ovarian cancer. A recent study has drawn stronger correlation between the use of oral contraception and a reduced likelihood of ovarian cancer.
This new research has shown that newer versions of oral contraceptives provide more protection against ovarian cancer than previous versions of birth control. One reason like is newer versions typically have lower doses of estrogen and older progestogens when compared with older versions of the pill. A cool thing researchers discovered was in addition to the newer forms of the pill being associated with a lower risk of ovarian cancer, the protective benefits were greater with longer duration of use.
The study consisted of the data from over a million women in Denmark between the ages of 15 and 49. The women were divided into three categories: women who had never used the birth control pill, those currently using the pill or users who had stopped within the last 12 months, and those who had stopped using the pill more than 12 months ago.
After taking several things into account, including age, education, and family history of ovarian cancer. And after all those factors, they found that those who had never taken the pill had the highest rates of ovarian cancer. Based on their findings, the researchers estimate that hormonal contraceptives prevented approximately 21 percent of ovarian cancers among the women who took the pill.
"We knew from previous studies of the association between combined oral contraceptives and ovarian cancer, so our results might have been expected. However, previous studies were based on women who were mostly older than reproductive age and therefore former users of oral contraceptives who would have used older products,” lead author of the study, Lisa Iversen, PhD, a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland told Healthline.
So what does this mean? Well, nearly all research done on birth control pills and cancer has been observational. That means it can't definitively prove if the pill can prevent or cause cancer. But, studies have proven the risks of endometrial, ovarian, and colorectal cancer decrease with the use of birth control pills. While we know there's no definitive answer, researchers speculate that when it comes to ovarian cancer, one of the reasons the risk decreases is because of the fact that birth control suppresses ovulation. The less a woman is ovulating, the less likely she is to develop ovarian cancer.
“Our findings of a reduced risk of ovarian cancer associated with contemporary combined oral contraceptives are reassuring for women currently of reproductive age,” Iversen noted.
Hopefully this study leads to more conclusive research findings.