Health Care

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) may lower risk of cervical cancer

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) may lower risk of cervical cancer

The World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed in 2012 close to 528,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and 266,000 women died from it. "It was not subtle at all", lead author Victoria Cortessis, an associate professor of clinical preventive medicine at Keck School, said in a statement.

When doctors insert IUDs, irritation of the cervical tissue might trigger an immune response that helps fight HPV infections, Cortessis said.

The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small T-shaped object placed inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy.

Cervical cancer is nearly always caused by certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), according to the World Health Organization.

An IUD may lower a woman's risk of cervical cancer by helping to fight off an HPV infection, Cortessis hypothesized.

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How so? It analyzed data from 16 high-quality observational studies involving more than 12,000 women worldwide. Given that IUDs are one of the most popular and effective birth control methods women use - and the number one choice of OB/GYNs for birth control, according to a 2013 survey from Planned Parenthood - fact that they could help reduce the likelihood of cervical cancer is very good news for women who use IUDs, or will in the future.

This was a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies looking at the use of an IUD and the incidence of cervical cancer.

IUDs are also one of the most effective forms of contraception, noted Dr. Jeffrey Peipert, an obstetrics and gynecology researcher at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis who wasn't involved in the study. The studies included 4,945 women who developed cervical cancer and 7,537 who did not.

"That becomes a significant factor to consider in evaluating results of this type of study", Lichtenfeld said. It was published in the peer-reviewed journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Women who had used an IUD were 36% less likely to develop cervical cancer (odds ratio 0.64, 95% confidence interval 0.53 to 0.77).

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"Would I recommend an IUD exclusively for cervical cancer prevention?"

Firstly, none of the women had received an HPV vaccine.

Although gynaecologists won't begin recommending the coil for cancer protection just yet, it could be on the horizon.

"The findings are interesting and don't appear to be dependent on the type of IUD or the time it is being used", Dr Vollenhoven said.

For women in developing countries, where cervical cancer prevention resources such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine or regular cervical screenings are scarce, and where populations are increasing rapidly, a contraceptive that offers protection against cervical cancer could have a profound effect, 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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