Medicine

IUDs may prevent cervical cancer risk

IUDs may prevent cervical cancer risk

Women using the iud see the risk of developing cancer of the cervix of the uterus reduced by one-third compared to those not using this contraceptive, reveals a promising study published Tuesday in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The IUS (intrauterine system) or hormonal coil is a small, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into the womb, as a form of contraception, by a doctor or nurse.

Use of the coil led to a "dramatic decrease" of cases of the deadly disease, researchers found. There are two types of IUD.

Unfortunately, HPV is so widespread that many contract the virus as soon as they initiate sexual activity, Cortessis continued. The data included almost 5,000 women who developed cervical cancer and just over 7,500 women who did not. ScienceDaily reports that some scientists say it may have to do with the placement of the IUD, and perhaps it stimulates an immune response in the cervix.

She said that it could be that these IUDs trigger an immune response that ends up strengthening the body to fight a viral infection caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).

"We were really surprised by the extent of the reduction of the risk", stresses Victoria Cortessis, assistant professor of clinical preventive health care at the university of Southern California and one of the main co-authors. When an IUD is inserted, it triggers an immune response in the body that could "kick out" an HPV infection, she said.

"It's stunning, actually", Cortessis said.

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The researchers analysed patient data from 16 previous studies on cervical cancer in order to draw their conclusions. Most of the time, HPV infections go away on their own, but when they do not, they can lead to genital warts and various kinds of cancer, including but not limited to cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, or throat - and, of course, the cervix.

To very this, they scoured through studies that measured use of IUD and cases of cervical cancer.

Even so, the results suggest it's worth continuing to research the potential for IUDs to help prevent cervical cancer, said Dr. Michelle Moniz, an obstetrics and gynecology researcher at the University of MI in Ann Arbor who wasn't involved in the study. Long term studies looking at only the association between IUD use and cervical cancer protection are needed, they write.

But Lichtenfeld was concerned that some of the larger studies included in the analysis dated back to the 1980s and 1990s, when IUDs were being prescribed in the United States to a more select group of women. But no matter how the data was tested in relation to these variables, the researchers found the same results, she said: The rate of cervical cancer in IUD users was a third lower than among nonusers.

"That becomes a significant factor to consider in evaluating results of this type of study", Lichtenfeld said.

"We would not want women to think [IUDs] replace the excellent protection provided by HPV vaccination and regular cervical screening", she said.


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