Health

IUDs Are Linked To A Lower Cervical Cancer Risk, Study Finds

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Of all the women who were surveyed, those who used the coil had a third less incidence of cervical cancer.

"The potential association between birth control methods and cancer has been of interest for many years", said Dr. George Sawaya, a reproductive health and cancer researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who wasn't involved in the study.

Dr Beverley Vollenhoven, deputy head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Monash University, said she was excited about the research findings.

IUDs are small, T-shaped devices placed in the uterus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg.

"This possible noncontraceptive benefit could be most beneficial in populations with severely limited access to screening and concomitantly high cervical cancer incidence", added corresponding author Victoria K. Cortessis, PhD.

Even so, the results suggest it's worth continuing to research the potential for IUDs to help prevent cervical cancer, said Dr. Michelle Moniz, an obstetrics and gynecology researcher at the University of MI in Ann Arbor who wasn't involved in the study.

Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide but only the 13th most common in women in the UK. There could have been other reasons for the results that were specific to the individual countries where the studies were carried out - a mix of developed nations, such as Spain, and developing nations, such as Kenya. "It's a common infection and in about 90% of women who have HPV, their body will clear the virus on its own but in 10% of women, the infections don't clear up and they can turn into cervical cancer", Cortessis says. It was published in the peer-reviewed journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. "This is yet another benefit to what may be considered the flawless birth control for women of all ages". "It looks real. It smells real, but to be really convinced, we need to go back and do studies to find a mechanism". The studies included 4,945 women who developed cervical cancer and 7,537 who did not.

"[The study] is unlikely to change clinical practice and women's opinions regarding IUD".

This systematic review and meta-analysis suggests that any previous use of an IUD reduces the risk of cervical cancer. "I would recommend the HPV vaccine for that; however, millions of women may benefit from the IUD for contraception and for the non-contraceptive benefits".

Dr Cortessis says a contraceptive that offers protection against cervical cancer could have a "profound" effect. They can protect themselves against getting pregnant, while warding off the cervical cancer risk. The immune system reacts over time to the foreign body of the IUD, and this immune response could also target the HPV, Cortessis said. Omitting age at fitting is also problematic because the World Health Organization has found that age is a highly influential factor in HPV prevalence: the earlier a woman has the coil fitted, the greater the protection against HPV infection she may get.

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