Women who take the Pill for 10 years almost halve their risk of ovarian cancer, according to a study.But experts say this must be balanced against the risk of breast cancer, which is higher in women on the Pill.
For every 100,000 women on the Pill for 10 years there are 50 extra breast cancers and 12 fewer ovarian cancers, data shows.The study is published in the British Journal of Cancer.It adds weight to previous research suggesting factors like the Pill and pregnancy can impact on cancer risk by changing the level of hormones in the body.
Dr Richard Edmondson of the Northern Institute for Cancer Research at the University of Newcastle, said: “Women may be reassured to know that the oral contraceptive is not only an effective contraceptive but can have the added benefit of reducing their risk of ovarian cancer.
“This is however balanced against a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer. “To put this in context, it is estimated that if 100,000 women use the Pill for 10 years or more, there will be 50 more breast cancers than would have otherwise occurred, but 12 fewer ovarian cancers.
“This may be particularly important for women with an increased risk of ovarian cancer in their family.”The study followed more than 300,000 women enrolled in a large European study known as EPIC (European Prospective Investigation of Cancer).The women were taking the combined oral contraceptive pill, which contains two hormones, an oestrogen and a progestogen.
Researchers say they found evidence that taking the Pill for 10 years reduced the risk of ovarian cancer by almost half, compared with women who had used the contraceptive for a year or less.However, they add that their research did not find evidence of a link between breastfeeding and protection against ovarian cancer, which has been found in some other studies.