The contraceptive pill and Cervical Cancer

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WOMEN who take the contraceptive pill may increase their risk of cervical cancer, according to a major new study published in the Lancet. Around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the UK.

In the study, commissioned by the World Health Organisation, researchers combined the data from 28 studies, involving 12,500 women with cervical cancer from a number of countries including the UK and USA.

Open quotesThe longer women use the pill the greater their risk of 
                                        developing cervical cancerClose quotes

Researchers found that the longer women used the pill the greater their risk of developing cervical cancer. The effect remained even when other risk factors for the disease such as infection with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) were taken into account.

Cancer Research UK experts stress that further research is needed to determine whether the risk of cervical cancer drops after women stop using the pill, before implications for public health can be fully understood. They also emphasise the importance of regular cervical screening for all women, whether or not they use the pill.

Researchers found that women who used the pill for five years or less had a 10 per cent increased risk of cervical cancer when compared with women who had never taken it. This increased risk rose to 60 per cent with five to nine years of use and doubled with 10 years of use or over.

A similar pattern of increased risk was seen when researchers took into account other factors which could influence cervical cancer risk, such as whether the women smoked, their number of sexual partners, whether they had previously attended cervical cancer screening and whether they used barrier methods of contraception.

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