We’ve known for some time that taking birth control pills can do more than prevent an unwanted pregnancy. Now, a new study shows that it can also help prevent the development of endometrial cancer.
The study, which was recently published in The Lancet Oncology, involved an examination of data associated with roughly 27,000 women from around the world. Researchers discovered that for every five years a woman took birth control medication, she cut her chance of development endometrial cancer by roughly one quarter.
That’s not all, in higher income nations, such as Canada or the United States, the reduction associated with birth control was even more visible, with only 1.3 cases of endometrial cancer emerging per 100 women who used oral contraceptives (by comparison, among women who did not take the pill the rate was 2.3 cases per 100).
Dr. Jennifer Wu, a New York City-based obstetrician and gynecologist, the study shows just how beneficial birth control can be. “This really helps to quantify it in a way doctors and patients can understand,” says Wu. “It’s really important for a patient to realize that there are these benefits.”
This is not the first study to reveal the health benefits of taking birth control. Other studies have shown that it can cut a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer; in fact, one analysis showed that taking the pill can reduce a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 50-percent.
Researchers are still exploring the relationship between the pill and cancer, but they believe it has to do with female hormones. The pill can actually prevent the thickening of the uterine wall, which in some cases can result in the growth of abnormal and precancerous cells. Because women on the pill have thinner uterine walls, their risk of cancer is lower.