Birth Control Pills Linked with Reduced Risk of Ovarian Cancer Death

By Sara Bondell - April 09, 2019

Using oral contraceptives has been tied to a reduced risk for highly fatal aggressive ovarian cancer, according to study results presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting. The study also showed the longer a woman used birth control pills, the less likely she was to die from ovarian cancer.

Results showed any oral contraceptive use was associated with a 46% reduction in the odds of death within one year of diagnosis. Those who used birth control pills for more than 10 years had a 66% reduction in the chance of dying from the disease within one year. 

Dr. Robert Wenham, chair, Gynecologic Oncology Program at Moffitt.

Dr. Robert Wenham, chair of Moffitt’s Gynecological Oncology Program, says these results support other data surrounding hormones and ovarian cancer. “There has already been reported data suggesting that hormone use before diagnosis may lead to a more favorable type of tumor in terms of outcome,” he said. “Furthermore, there have been prior studies showing that hormone use after diagnosis is associated with a more favorable outcome, including survival.”

This study was the first large-scale investigation into the association between oral contraceptive use and risk of highly fatal ovarian cancer. Researchers say the results are in line with current evidence that has demonstrated a substantial decrease in risk of ovarian cancer with oral contraceptive use for five or more years. They say further research should aim at understanding the mechanism behind the association and identifying specific subgroups that may benefit most from this strategy.

Wenham says the mantra that hormones are bad is “simplistic and wrong.” Recently, he was an author of a paper published in the journal Cancer, which weighed the benefits and risks menopausal hormone therapy in women with or at risk of ovarian and breast cancers.

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