Each study included information about the participants' IUD use, history of cervical cancer and other health risk factors, including prevalence of HPV and the age of a woman's fist vaginal intercourse. "It was not subtle at all", said the study's lead author, Victoria Cortessis, PhD, associate professor of clinical preventive medicine at the Keck School.
"IUDs could be a tool to combat this impending epidemic".
The number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer is steadily rising. They can be either made of copper, which prevent the sperm from being effective, or hormonal, which prevent the uterus from thickening before a possible pregnancy. Most of the time, HPV infections go away on their own, but when they do not, they can lead to genital warts and various kinds of cancer, including but not limited to cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, or throat - and, of course, the cervix.
"One important conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that there is no associated increased risk of cervical cancer with IUD use", Sawaya said by email.
How so? It analyzed data from 16 high-quality observational studies involving more than 12,000 women worldwide.
The research team said also said the IUD could protect against cancer as it is removed, because some cervical cells that contain HPV infection or precancerous changes may be scraped off. "Even if the rate of cervical cancer remains steady, the actual number of women with cervical cancer is poised to explode", Cortessis says.
"The results of our study are very exciting", coauthor Laila Muderspach added.
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They say they have found "very strong evidence" to suggest that women who use the coil as a form of contraception cut their risk of developing cervical cancer by a third.
The report was published online November 7 in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
However, the study only showed an association between IUDs and a lower risk of cervical cancer. The studies included 4,945 women who developed cervical cancer and 7,537 who did not.
IUDs are also one of the most effective forms of contraception, noted Dr. Jeffrey Peipert, an obstetrics and gynecology researcher at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis who wasn't involved in the study.
Women who had used an IUD were 36% less likely to develop cervical cancer (odds ratio 0.64, 95% confidence interval 0.53 to 0.77).
Firstly, none of the women had received an HPV vaccine.
For women in developing countries, where cervical cancer prevention resources such as the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine or regular cervical screenings are scarce, and where populations are increasing rapidly, a contraceptive that offers protection against cervical cancer could have a profound effect, Cortessis said. And more research is needed before gynecologists can begin recommending IUDs for protection against cervical cancer, Cortessis and other medical experts agreed. If this infection is gone, then the cervical cancer chances also get smaller.