A recent study performed by researchers of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., found that women who have history of using oral contraceptives (birth control) have a reduced risk of developing ovarian cancer, as well as a higher survival rate for those who are diagnosed. During their study, which took place over a 13-year span (2000-2013), nearly 1,400 ovarian cancer patients completed a questionnaire about their history of birth control use in which more than 800 reported they have in fact taken oral contraceptives in the past.
One statistical analysis found that patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer who have a history of oral birth control use had an increase in the amount of time they lived without the disease worsening, as well as the length of time those with the disease lived, compared to those with no history of oral contraceptive use. However, it is still unclear why or how the contraceptives provide improved outcomes.
One hypothesis that these researchers have formed is that the use of oral contraceptives may help reduce the risk of DNA mutations, which can result in a much less aggressive form of the disease. Although much more research is needed in this area, patients with ovarian cancer can use these findings as a sense of hope for their current situations.
According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 22,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year. Research has also found an average of over 14,000 deaths occur each year from ovarian cancer in the United States alone. However, if detected early enough, the survival rate of patients with ovarian cancer is nearly 90 percent.
The problem is the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often extremely difficult to recognize and connect to the disease, so in many cases the cancer has spread to a deadly degree before it is even diagnosed. A few common symptoms to look out for include abdominal pain, bloating, menstrual changes, and new urinary symptoms like urgency or frequency.
Many risk factors exist that should be avoided by all women in order to reduce the risk of developing ovarian cancer. These include obesity, the use of fertility drugs, and a family history of cancer. Obviously, women who have a family history of cancer should be more cautious and consider getting tested annually.
Additionally, research cited by the American Cancer Society has linked the frequent use of talcum powder on the genitals to an increased chance of ovarian cancer development. Of the nearly 22,000 new cases of ovarian cancer diagnosed each year, the ACS notes that up to 2,200 of the diagnoses may be caused by frequent use of talcum powder on the genital area.
Recently, a jury found that the massive health care company known as Johnson & Johnson had knowledge that their products such as Johnson’s Baby Powder had been linked to an increased risk for the development of ovarian cancer, but failed to warn consumers. As a result of their failure to mention this risk, many more women may have battled ovarian cancer and lost their lives.