IUDs May Reduce Ovarian Cancer Risk by 30%

This contraceptive method may provide more benefits beyond contraception, but more research is needed in this area.

Women who have ever used an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control may have a 30% lower risk for ovarian cancer.

“Amongst women seeking to use contraception, this newly described advantage of the IUD may influence a woman’s choice of contraceptive method,” said Dr. Jacques Balayla, obstetrician-gynecologist, epidemiologist and Osler fellow at McGill University in Montreal, Canada and medical director at Clinique MedicElle in Montreal, in an interview with CURE®.

The study, conducted by Balayla and colleagues and published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, aimed to assess the additional benefits of IUD use in women.

“The IUD has become the most important method of contraception used today,” Balayla explained. “Part of the clinical counseling involves describing the risks and benefits of using the IUD even beyond its main utility as a contraceptive. We know that the use of the levonorgestrel IUD reduces the risk of uterine cancer. We sought out to determine whether a similar benefit took place regarding ovarian cancer.”

To assess this, researchers analyzed data from four previously conducted studies with patients who ever used an IUD and five previous studies with patients who never used the device. Compared with women who never used an IUD, those who have had a lower risk for ovarian cancer by approximately 30%.

“The IUD therefore represents one of the handful of ways the risk for ovarian cancer can be reduced,” Balayla said.

The relationship between IUD use and a lower risk for ovarian cancer persisted after limiting the analysis to studies of patients who received a levonorgestrel intrauterine system.

“It is unclear what the mechanism is at this time, but the theoretical possibilities include the following: mechanical barrier against potential carcinogenic agents, decreased retrograde menstruation and displacement of endometrial cells, (and) progesterone-induced benefit amongst hormonal IUDs,” Balayla noted.

Although a reduced risk for ovarian cancer with IUD use is promising, more research is needed in this area.

“The studies included in the meta-analysis (were) observational and primarily retrospective in nature,” Balayla said. “Ideally, a prospective cohort or randomized-controlled trial may better answer the question.”

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