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Monday 22nd January 2018

Cancer risk from pill 'reversible'

9th November 2007

An Oxford-led study published in The Lancet shows that oral contraceptives lead to an increased risk of cervical cancer, but this risk decreases once the contraceptive is stopped.


52,000 women took part in 24 studies around the world and an international team looked at the results. They showed that the risk of cancer went up in proportion to the amount of time the pill was taken.

The researchers discovered that women who had taken the pill for five years had double the risk of those women who had "never" taken it. However, after ten years of not taking the contraceptive, a woman's danger of developing cervical cancer was "the same as if she had never taken it."

Previous research had found a link between taking oral contraceptives and a higher risk of developing breast cancer, but a decreased risk of ovarian and womb cancer.

In the UK, the risk of developing cervical cancer in women who have never taken the pill is 3.8 in 1,000. This figure rises to 4 per 1,000 for women who have taken the pill for five years and to 4.5 per 1,000 for women who have taken it for a decade.

The study's head Dr Jane Green, from Cancer Research UK's epidemiology unit at the University of Oxford, said: "The pill remains one of the most effective forms of contraception, and in the long term the small increases in risk for cervical and breast cancers are outweighed by reduced risks for ovarian and womb cancer."

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