Women who take the pill for five years or more cut in half their risk of developing ovarian cancer, compared with those who don't use oral contraceptives, according to a new study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Using a statistical technique known as meta-analysis, Susan E. Hankinson and her colleagues analyzed 20 studies of the pill conducted between 1970 to 1991. They found that each year of oral-contraceptive use appeared to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by 10 to 12 percent. That adds up to at least a 50 percent reduction for women who use the pill for five years or more, researchers said. The study was published this month in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The protective effects of taking the pill also lasted for at least 10 years after women stopped taking oral contraceptives, the study found. "The longer they took the pill, the better the degree of protection," said Meir Stampfer, associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and a co-author of the study.
Ovarian cancer, the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in American women, kills roughly 12,000 women each year. Little is known about how to prevent the disease, which often runs in families.
AIDS deaths set record
For the first time, AIDS moved into the nation's top 10 causes of death last year, leapfrogging past homicide and liver disease, according to new federal statistics.
AIDS also has become the leading killer of young adult men (ages 25 to 44) in some American cities, surpassing heart disease, cancer and homicide.
The new national figures are especially ominous because the increase in AIDS deaths is accelerating. Deaths from the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS, rose 24 percent between 1990 and 1991, compared with a 13 percent increase the previous year.
The new information was compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics.