22nd March, 2017

FPA welcomes the results of a 44-year study on the long-term effects of the combined hormonal contraceptive pill. The study found that people who use the pill have no overall increased risk of cancer over their lifetime, and their risk of ovarian, endometrial (cancer of the uterus) or bowel cancer is reduced.

46,000 women were observed over 44 years for the Oral Contraception Study, which was set up by the Royal College of General Practitioners in 1968.

Led by Dr Lisa Iversen, Research Fellow in the Institute of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Aberdeen, the study found that taking the pill for any length of time lowers the rate of bowel cancer by 19 per cent, endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterus) by 34 per cent and ovarian cancer by 33 per cent. Even for those who stop taking the pill, this protective effect may continue for many years after.

Other benefits of the combined pill include that it:

  • usually makes your bleeds regular, lighter and less painful
  • may help with premenstrual symptoms
  • improves acne in some women
  • may reduce menopausal symptoms
  • may reduce the risk of fibroids, ovarian cysts and non-cancerous breast disease.

Hormonal contraception is a positive choice for many women, but there is often a focus on the potential negative side-effects and risks, which can cause unnecessary concern.

When choosing a contraceptive method it’s important for both the benefits and risks to be considered so that people can make an informed choice about what’s right for them. The right method will vary from person to person, depending on a wide range of factors, and is likely to change over time.

My Contraception Tool is a great way of exploring the methods available to see which might be most suitable.