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Birth Control Pills Can Help Women Live Longer




By Margarita Nahapetyan

Women who have been taking oral pills for contraception at some point in their lives actually have a better chance to live a longer life than their counterparts who have never taken any birth control pills, British scientists have reported earlier this week.

For the study, a team led by Dr. Philip Hannaford from Scotland's University of Aberdeen, followed more than 46,000 female patients from 1,400 medical practices throughout the U.K. for nearly 40 years. The experts looked for patterns between the use of oral birth control pill and mortality caused by disease or violent injury. The list of diseases included everything from cancers (uterine, ovarian and bowel) to heart disease, stroke and digestive disorders. The experts also took into consideration factors, such as smoking, giving birth and accounted for women's medical histories and social class.

When they compared the number of deaths in women who were taking the pill to those who never took it, it was revealed that, women who had taken oral contraception at some point in their lives had a reduced risk of dying from any cause, compared with those who had never taken the contraceptive pill. In particular, women who had used oral contraception had lower rates of death due to all forms of cancer, and had significantly lower rates of death due to cardiovascular disease or stroke. Experts found that the pill cut women's risk of dying from bowel cancer by 38 per cent and from any other diseases by about 12 per cent. What was even more strange, women who used the contraceptive pill were more likely to have higher rates of violent death than women who have never taken any birth control pills.

In the study, women on the pill generally took it for about 44 months. In more detailed analyses, the scientists were able to see higher rates of mortality among contraceptive users in certain subgroups. For example, death rates were slightly higher among women under the age of 30 years, who were taking the pill, but that began to be reversed by the age of 50 years. There was also an increased risk of death from any cause among ever-users under the age of 45 years who had quit a contraceptive pill about six years previously. However, the same risk was not seen in women with more distant use. Finally, the researchers found that there was no association between overall death rates and duration of birth control pill use.

Dr. Hannaford was careful to qualify these new results, saying that this large-scale study involved women who were taking the first generation of contraceptive pills, which were more likely to contain higher levels of estrogen than the pills that are on the market presently. Researchers say that while it is quite likely that contraceptive pills of a new generation would produce similar results, more studies and research on those pills are needed in order to confirm the findings. Dr. Hannaford and his colleagues also added that the pill's risks and benefits may vary worldwide, depending on each woman's individual health risks and how it is being used.

The results of a new study were published in March 12, 2010 issue of the British Medical Journal, BMJ.



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