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Use of oral contraceptives does not appear to increase risk of mortality, according to results of a study published in the British Medical Journal. In fact, women who use oral contraceptives may even have a lower risk of dying from all causes, including cancer.

Because oral contraceptives are widely used, study of their long-term health effects is an important area of research. Previous studies have found that use of oral contraceptives may reduce a women’s risk of developing ovarian and endometrial cancers, but questions remain about the long-term effects of these medicines.

To investigate whether rates of death from cancer and all causes differed among women who used oral contraceptives (ever users) and women who had never used oral contraceptives (never users), researchers in the UK studied 46,000 women for up to 39 years.

  • Ever users had significantly lower rates of death from any cause compared with never users.
  • Ever users also had significantly lower rates of death from all cancers and all diseases compared with never users.
  • An increase rate of violent death, however, was observed among ever users compared with never users.
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The researchers concluded that oral contraceptive use is not associated with an increased risk of death from cancer or any cause. They even speculate that women who use oral contraceptives may have a reduced risk of death from all causes compared with those who don’t use these medicines.

Reference: Hannaford PC, Iversen L, et al. Mortality among contraceptive pill users: cohort evidence from Royal College of General Practitioners’ Oral Contraception Study. British Medical Journal. 2010;340:c927

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