Pill perk: protection against ovarian cancer

A drop in rates of death from ovarian cancer is yet another reason to say "thanks, birth control."

Experts have known for a long time that the pill protects women against ovarian cancer—even decades after they stop taking it. Now a new study shows that the pill may have actually decreased deaths from ovarian cancer on a global scale.

Ovarian cancer is getting less common…

Compared to other types of cancer, ovarian cancer is relatively rare, and this study shows that it’s getting rarer as pill use becomes more common. It’s not just about the pill—treatments for ovarian cancer have also gotten better over time. Looking into these two trends together, researchers found drops in ovarian cancer deaths in most countries where the pill is widely used. In the U.S., for example, there was a 16% drop in ovarian cancer deaths from 2002 to 2012, from 5.8 to 4.9 deaths per 100,000 women each year.

…except in countries where the pill is less common.

In countries where few women use the pill, the opposite was true: ovarian cancer deaths went up from 2002 to 2012. In Colombia, for example, where use of the pill has gone down in the last few decades, deaths for ovarian cancer went up by 10%.

We have our fingers crossed that ovarian cancer will keep getting rarer and rarer—and that treatment will keep getting better and better—in the years ahead!

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