Oral contraceptive pills do not just prevent unplanned pregnancies in women. A new study suggests that it can also provide protection against some forms of cancer for as long as 30 years.
Protected From Three Forms Of Cancer
In the new study, researchers from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland looked at more than 46,000 women who were part of the Oral Contraception Study of the Royal College of General Practitioners in the year 1968 to see the long-term health effects of using oral contraceptives.
The researchers followed the participants for up to 44 years, making the study the world's longest-running research to investigate the effects of birth control pills.
By looking at the risk of all known types of cancer in the subjects who took the pill, researchers found that those who took the pill during their reproductive years had no signs of new cancer risk appearing later in life when more cancers tend to occur.
The research showed that those who took oral contraceptive pill had lower likelihood of developing colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer compared with women who never used the pill. Women appeared to be protected from these cancers for at least 30 years from the time they stopped using the pills.
Safety Of Taking Oral Contraceptive Pills
Hundreds of millions of women worldwide take oral contraceptive pills, and long-term cancer risks linked to its use has been an important concern for doctors and users.
"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," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
The results also strengthen a 2016 study that found deaths from ovarian cancer significantly dropped in Western countries between the years 2002 and 2012 due to the popularity of contraceptive pill. Researchers of this study, who described ovarian cancer as a silent killer because it is commonly diagnosed too late, predicted that cases of ovarian cancer would continue to drop because of widespread use of birth control pill. Another study published in 2015 also found that long-term use of the pill provides protection against endometrial cancer that affects the womb.
Unfortunately, other studies do not have reassuring results. In a 2014 study, for instance, researchers found that women who took contraceptive pills within the previous year had 50 percent increased risk of getting breast cancer compared with women who did not take the pills. The findings of this research showed that oral contraceptives with high-dose estrogen increases breast cancer risk by 2.7 times.
A 2015 study similarly raised concern over the safety of oral contraceptive use after it found that women who overuse birth control pills may experience excessive blood coagulation, which could be dangerous when it causes blockage in the artery and prevents blood flow.
Another study also warned that use of the pill is associated with increased likelihood of seizures in women who have epilepsy.