Source: BBC Health News; National Cancer Institute, US National Institutes of Health

A study published in the British Journal of Cancer suggest that women who take the Pill (contraception) for 10 years have 1/2 the risk of ovarian cancer.  Ovarian Cancer forms in tissues of the ovary.  1 in 72 women will be diagnosed with cancer of the ovary during their lifetime.  Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women in the UK, with more than 6,500 cases diagnosed each year.  In the US, there will be some 21,990 new cases of ovarian cancer in 2011, with 15,460 women dying from this disease.  Factors which increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer include: age; family history; obesity; and, smoking.

(Perhaps ironically, becoming pregnant, and multiple pregnancies, reduced the risk of ovarian cancer).

The study is significant for its size, following more than 300,000 European women who were taking the combined oral contraceptive pill, which contains two hormones, an estrogen and a progesterone.  The researchers cite 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.  According to British epidemiologist, Naomi Allen,  “Ovarian cancer is difficult to detect and so prevention is key to saving women suffering from this disease.”  As is the case with most cancers, “Treatment for ovarian cancer is better if the disease is caught as early as possible.” -Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK.

Women should be aware of the signs of ovarian cancer which can include:  pain in the lower tummy; constant bloating; increased tummy size; difficulty eating; and, feeling full.  If these symptoms are new and happen on most days you should see your doctor.

All is not sunshine and roses, however, experts say that the benefit of lower ovarian cancer must be balanced against the risk of breast cancer, which is higher in women on the Pill.  Other data shows that for every 100,000 women on the Pill for 10 years there are 50 extra breast cancers and 12 fewer ovarian cancers.

Posted by: David M. Schwadron, Esquire