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CancerConnect News: The long-term use of oral contraceptives reduces the risk for developing ovarian and endometrial cancers.  The effect is especially evident in smokers, women who are overweight and those who exercise infrequently, according to the results of a new study published in JAMA Oncology.

Earlier studies have demonstrated an association of previous oral contraceptive use with reduced risk for these cancers in postmenopausal women. This study considered the impact of various health and lifestyle factors, including smoking, obesity and physical activity.

The current study evaluated 196,536 women between the ages of 50 to 71, more than half of who had used oral contraceptives. When compared with women who hadn’t used oral contraceptives, those who had used them for 10 years or more had a 34 percent reduced risk for endometrial and a 40 percent risk reduction for ovarian cancer. The strongest reductions were among women who were smokers, obese and those who got no regular exercise.

Importantly, contraceptive use did not seem to affect the risk for developing other cancers including postmenopausal colorectal or breast cancer.

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Long-term oral contraceptive use is consistently associated with reduced ovarian cancer risk across lifestyle factors and this study confirms that observation. The greatest risk reductions for endometrial cancer were among women at risk for chronic diseases. Although most women are not thinking of cancer prevention when they start using oral contraceptives, their use may clearly be beneficial for prevention in postmenopausal women with a range of differing risks for cancer.”

Reference:  Modification of the Associations Between Duration of Oral Contraceptive Use and Ovarian, Endometrial, Breast, and Colorectal Cancers