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IUD use possibly correlated to lower incidence of cervical cancer


A new study published in The Lancet medical journal shows that Intrauterine Devices, or IUDs, may offer women some degree of protection against cervical cancer.

Researchers from around the world gathered and analyzed 26 studies where 20,000 women from 14 countries were tested for cervical cancer, and the results showed that women who have IUDs were at half the risk for cervical cancer than those women who did not have IUDs.

Though researchers found that IUDs may help protect against cervical cancer, they did not find the same results in regard to HPV, the human papilloma virus. HPV is considered one of the leading causes of cervical cancer. When attempting to determine why the IUD might help with cervical cancer, many put forth the theory that there may be some element of the IUD that causes an immune response that can get rid of the disease after it’s already in the body.

"The hypothesis is that an IUD, because it's a foreign body, creates an inflammatory response that gets rid of the HPV, which reduces the risk of cervical cancer," said Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology Dr. Howard Jones.

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Previously, IUDs were thought to be more risky.

"People have suggested in the past that having an IUD put people at increased risk for developing cancer, and we are not seeing that," said Emory University Professor and Winship Cancer Institute Director of Gynecological Oncology Dr. Ira Horowitz.

Though the findings are promising, experts say that changes regarding the recommendation of the IUD is unlikely to change until researchers conduct new research establishing a cause and effect relationship between IUDs and a lower incidence of cervical cancer. In addition, the study did not examine different types of IUDs, of which there are several.

"The protective effect of IUD use challenges some key elements in the current model of the natural history of cervical cancer," wrote Dr. Karl Ulrich Petry of Klinikum Wolfsburg in Wolfsburg, Germany, in an accompanying comment.

Dr. Johnathan Lancaster, director of the Center for Women's Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL, said that while the research might be reassuring to women who have IUDs, he doubted that it would cause women who don’t have them to go out and get them.

IUDs still come with plenty of risks, including excessive bleeding and cramping. They also carry a risk of pelvic inflammatory disease in patients who use them.