Los Angeles, Nov 8 (PTI) Intrauterine devices (IUDs)- considered a safe and highly effective contraception method – may also protect against cervical cancer, a study claims.
The research is the first to combine data from multiple studies on IUDs and cervical cancer.
The analysis included data from 16 high-quality observational studies involving more than 12,000 women worldwide.
The results, published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, showed that in women who used an IUD, the incidence of cervical cancer – the third-most common cancer in women worldwide – was a third lower.
“The pattern we found was stunning. It was not subtle at all,” said Victoria Cortessis, associate professor at University of Southern California in the US.
“The possibility that a woman could experience some help with cancer control at the same time she is making contraception decisions could potentially be very, very impactful,” said Cortessis.
The number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer is steadily rising. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 528,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide in 2012, and 266,000 women died from the disease.
By 2035, the WHO projects that those numbers will climb to more than 756,000 and 416,000, respectively.
For women in developing countries, where cervical cancer prevention resources such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine or regular cervical screenings are scarce, and where populations are increasing rapidly, a contraceptive that offers protection against cervical cancer could have a profound effect, Cortessis said.
“A staggering number of women in the developing world are on the verge of entering the age range where the risk for cervical cancer is the highest – the 30s to the 60s,” said Cortessis.
“Even if the rate of cervical cancer remains steady, the actual number of women with cervical cancer is poised to explode. IUDs could be a tool to combat this impending epidemic,” she said.
Understanding the mechanism of action behind the protective effect of IUDs is the next step, Cortessis said.
Some scientists speculate that the placement of an IUD stimulates an immune response in the cervix, giving the body an opportunity to fight an existing HPV infection that could one day lead to cervical cancer.
Another possibility is that when an IUD is removed, some cervical cells that contain HPV infection or precancerous changes may be scraped off. PTI MHN SAR MHN