New Study Finds IUDs May Reduce Risk Of Cervical Cancer
Finally, some good news in the fight against cervical cancer.
A new study of nearly 20,000 women spanning four continents found those who used an intrauterine device or IUD cut their risk of cervical cancer by fifty percent.
This is a big breakthrough in the battle against a disease that kills over 300,000 worldwide each year and is now the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women.
Despite IUDs falling out of favor in the 1970s due to complications, a number of current versions have been approved for use more recently, and are significantly safer, with the most common side effect generally being temporary menstrual irregularities.
However, it is believed that when it comes to HPV, the sexually transmitted virus that leads to most cervical cancer, IUDs may actually be a woman's best line of defense against the disease.
"The hypothesis is that an IUD, because it's a foreign body, creates an inflammatory response that gets rid of the HPV, which reduces the risk of cervical cancer," Dr. Howard Jones, chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told ABC News.
Researchers believe the decrease in cervical cancer could be attributed to an immune response to the device over time, which can stay in the body for up to 10 years.
"It is not necessarily the IUD itself but it is the change in the environment that the HPV is living in that may halt or retard the progression of HPV to cervical cancer," said NYU Medical Center Professor of OB-GYN, Dr. Steven R. Goldstein.
While the positive benefits may be reassuring for women who have IUDs, doctors remain cautious on the practicality of prescribing them for this reason and say women shouldn't necessarily think of them as their only option.
"If you are concerned about not developing cervical cancer just going out and getting an IUD is not the answer," said Dr. Goldstein. "You need to have safe sex, you need to have pap smears as indicated. But if a woman with a history of abnormal cervix changes is on the fence about what method of contraception to choose, perhaps a study like this may make her lean towards an IUD if she is an appropriate candidate."
In fact, barrier methods, such as condoms, are a better option for women who are more sexually active. But for women in monogamous relationships who have had at least one child, an IUD might be a good choice. While the cost is initially higher than birth control pills, there is no daily tablet to remember to take, and the insertion procedure may be covered by insurance companies.
If you are interested in obtaining an IUD, speak to your physician at Women's HealthFirst to determine if it is the best option for you. And always remember that even women using these devices should get regular pap smears and cervical screenings to ensure and maintain a healthy, cervical cancer-free life.