Cervical cancer risk reduces after stopping the pill

14 Nov 2007
Women taking the combined oral contraceptive pill are at an increased risk of cervical cancer but this risk starts falling soon after the pill is stopped, according to research published in the Lancet.

The Cancer Research UK study shows that by ten years after last using the pill the extra cervical cancer risk has disappeared.

The study confirms previous research linking the pill with an increased risk of cervical cancer and reveals for the first time that this risk falls after pill use stops.

Women currently using the pill and who have been using it for at least five years are at nearly twice the risk of cervical cancer compared with women who have never used the pill. Cases of cervical cancer peak in woman in their 30s and there is only a small overall effect on the lifetime risk of developing cervical cancer from use of the pill in young women.

Researchers looked at 24 separate studies of more than 52,000 women from 26 countries worldwide. Previous research has also shown an increase in breast cancer risk but a decrease in ovarian and womb cancer in women who take the pill.

Dr Jane Green, lead researcher based at Cancer Research UK’s epidemiology unit at the University of Oxford, said: “This study confirms that women who are taking the pill have a small increased risk of cervical cancer. But this increased risk begins to drop soon after women stop taking the pill and after 10 years risk has returned to normal levels.

“The pill remains one of the most effective forms of contraception, and in the long term the small increases in risk for cervical and breast cancers are outweighed by reduced risks for ovarian and womb cancer.”