IUD Use Reduces the Risk of Cervical Cancer. Not to Mention Unwanted Pregnancy.

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Sept. 20 2011 2:00 PM

Another Reason IUDs Are Awesome

IUD birth control
Photograph of IUD birth control by Duramed.

IUD birth control

A group of researchers writing for Lancet Oncology found good news for fans and users of intrauterine devices for preventing pregnancy: For reasons that aren't yet understood, IUD use reduces the risk of cervical cancer by 45 percent. The NYT reports that the protective effect is apparent in the first year of use and beyond, and isn't associated with the fact that women who chose to have an IUD inserted are also more likely to have been screened for cervical cancer. This research—the result of compiling data from two large studies encompassing women in at least 14 countries—suggests that the IUD use offers its own protection against the cancer, but not against human pappillomavirus, its main cause. The researchers believe the insertion of an IUD "might provoke an immune response to HPV."

Katherine Goldstein wrote about IUD use here last month, noting all of its other advantages: "It’s actually MORE effective and there are no hormones or hormone-related side effects that bother some women, no daily pills to remember, and little chance for human error." Her hope was that with the cost barrier removed by the Affordable Care Act, more women would consider the IUD's advantages over the error-prone, hormonally based birth control pill. Some commenters disagreed with her positive take on the IUD, citing their own negative experiences. Others, like the IUD users in Katherine's unscientific survey (I was one of them) said they loved the thing.

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But what we all, IUD users or not, love are options. One form of birth control will never be right for everyone, and most women end up cycling through multiple methods before choosing the one that's right for them, or at least right right now. This news, if it holds up to further research, might offer one more reason that an IUD is worth a try. 

KJ Dell'Antonia is a writer living in New Hampshire. She writes the EcoLiving column for Kiwi magazine and is the co-author ofReading With Babies, Toddlers and Twos: Choosing, Reading and Loving Books Together.

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