Page last updated at 07:38 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

Women on pill 'may live longer'

Pills
The long-term effects of the contraceptive pill have been studied

Women who have taken the contraceptive pill are less likely to die of cancer and heart disease, a study has found.

The research, which studied 46,000 women over almost 40 years, was led by Prof Philip Hannaford of the University of Aberdeen.

He said that earlier data from the study had suggested there was an increased risk from using the pill but this disappeared in the longer term.

The professor said: "I think it is really reassuring for women."

Excess risk

The results are from the Royal College of GPs Oral Contraception Study, one of the world's largest investigations into the health effects of the pill.

The study was published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Prof Hannaford told BBC Scotland: "We have known for a while that whilst women use the pill they have a small excess risk of disease but that seems to wear off.

"What we have never known is, what are the really long-term effects?"

"This study, after following up a large group of women for 39 years, has shown there is no increased risk among women who have used the pill, in fact there is a small 12% drop."

What we know now is once the pill is stopped those risks disappear and in the very long term there is no increased risk, in fact, if anything, a small benefit
Prof Hannaford

He said women who had taken the pill were less likely to die from cancer, heart disease or stroke.

The professor added: "There are some risks whilst you use it but you can minimise those risks by avoiding smoking, having your blood pressure checked, taking part in screening programmes.

"What we know now is once the pill is stopped those risks disappear and in the very long term there is no increased risk, in fact, if anything, a small benefit."

He said the results of the survey related to the first generation of pills.

Prof Hannaford said pills had changed over the years and methods of assessing risk were now different.

He added: "It would be wrong for me to say these results directly apply to today's pills, today's women, but from the few studies that have been done on the newer pills we are finding similar effects as the older pills. So one would suppose that the overall benefit from the newer pills is equally as good."



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