Can Oral Contraceptives Prevent Endometrial Cancer?

By Mikael Häggström. When using this image in external works, it may be cited as follows:  Häggström, Mikael. "Medical gallery o

Apparently the use of oral contraceptives, even for a few years can help protect women against endometrial cancer. The longer she uses oral contraceptives, the greater the reduction in risk, according to a detailed analysis of different types of available evidence. The results of the study were published in the Lancet Journal Oncology.

The Study

A group of researchers from the Collaborative Group on Epidemiological Studies on Endometrial Cancer estimate that in the past 50 years, approximately 400,000 cases of endometrial cancer have been prevented through the use of oral contraceptives, including 200,000 within the past decade (2005-2014).

Study Author Professor Valerie Beral from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom explains, “The strong protective effect of oral contraceptives against endometrial cancer, which persists for decades after stopping the pill, means that women who use it when they are in their 20s or even younger continue to benefit into their 50s and older, when cancer becomes more common.”

She further added, “Previous research has shown that the pill also protects against ovarian cancer. People used to worry that the pill might cause cancer, but in the long term the pill reduces the risk of getting cancer.”

The research included data from 27,276 women with endometrial cancer in 36 studies from North America, Asia, Australia, Europe and South Africa. The information is virtually all the epidemiological evidence ever collected on the effects of oral contraceptives.

The findings of the study reveal that every 5 years of oral contraceptive use reduces the risk of endometrial cancer by about a quarter. In high income countries, 10 years of using oral contraceptives reduces the risk of endometrial cancer before the age of 75 from 2.3 to 1.3 cases per 100 users.

Although the doses of estrogen in oral contraceptives have decreased significantly over the years, with pills in the 1960s typically having more than double the estrogen than those of the 1980s, the reduction of endometrial cancer was at least as great for women who used the pills in the 1980s as it was for those who used them in earlier times. These results suggest that the amount of hormones in lower dose pills is still enough to reduce the incidence of endometrial cancer.

The proportional reduction of risk didn’t vary substantially by a woman’s reproductive health history, amount of body fat, alcohol or tobacco use or ethnic background.


According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Naomi Allen, also from Oxford University, “The existing evidence suggests that medium-to-long-term use of oral contraceptives (ie for 5 years or longer) results in substantially reduced risk of endometrial cancer. Over the past 50 years (1965-2014), we estimate that about 400,000 endometrial cancers have been prevented in women before the age of 75 years in high-income countries through the use of oral contraceptives, with about 200,000 prevented during the last decade (2005-14).”

The study was done through funding from the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.


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