Does the oral contraceptive pill decrease your risk of ovarian cancer?

Contraceptive pill

Our health projects manager Ross responds to reports that use of the oral contraceptive pill could decrease risk of ovarian cancer

What is being reported?

Studies published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology have suggested that taking the contraceptive pill could decrease a woman's risk of ovarian cancer.

What does the research show?

Women who have taken the oral contraceptive pill at some point during their life are 16% less likely to develop any kind of invasive epithelial ovarian cancer than those who have never used it.

The research showed a similar risk reduction in high-grade serous, endometrioid and clear-cell ovarian cancers, but it did not have the same effect on mucinous tumours.

The research also showed that for every five years that the pill was taken, the risk of ovarian cancer decreased by around 13% (again with the exception of mucinous tumours).

What does this mean for women?

We have known for some time that having a longer menstrual history may contribute to an increased risk of ovarian cancer, and that using the oral contraceptive pill can help reduce this. The latest research adds yet more weight to this theory.

It is important to remember that there is nothing a woman can do to guarantee she won't get ovarian cancer, but there are a number of factors that can help reduce this risk; these include maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, having children, and breast feeding where possible. It is also important to be aware of your family history of ovarian and breast cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Action encourages women who are considering using the oral contraceptive pill to discuss this with their GP beforehand.