13 September 2011
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) - a long-term form of contraception - may help protect against the development of cervical cancer, according to findings from studies covering 20,000 women.
Women who had used an IUD were found to have almost half the incidence of cancer of the cervix compared with non-IUD users.
Strong protection was seen for different types of cervical cancer - a 44 per cent reduced risk for squamous cell carcinoma, and a 54 per cent reduced risk for adenocarcinoma and adenosquamous carcinoma. The protection was less in women who tested positive for human papillomavirus (HPV) (32 per cent reduced risk). The HPV group includes certain strains that cause genital warts and others that are a cause of cervical cancer.
The analysis took in data from 2 large studies by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and Institut Català d’Oncologia, which included data on almost 20,000 women with cervical cancer, HPV, or healthy women included for comparison.
IUD use might act as a protective factor in the development of cervical cancer, the authors concluded, noting "cellular immunity triggered by the device" as one possible mechanism (Lancet Oncology 2011; online 13 Sep).
An accompanying editorial said the protective effect was evident from IUD use ranging from a few months up to 9 years, suggesting it was the process of "loop insertion" rather than IUD type or duration of use that was beneficial.
"At first glance, the main implication of this finding is that it provides a high level of evidence to contradict a widespread assumption that IUD use increases the risk of cervical cancer," an accompanying editorial stated.
"However, restored confidence in the safety of IUDs is really just a secondary result.
"The protective effect of IUD use challenges some key elements in the current model of the natural history of cervical cancer."
Last Reviewed: 16 September 2011