Taking the contraceptive pill for 10 years reduces the risk of developing ovarian cancer by 45 per cent according to new research.
The ongoing study involving half a million women, also found that the next best method of protection against ovarian cancer was having a baby.
Cases of ovarian cancer were slashed by 30 per cent in women who had been pregnantandwith every extra child the risk of contracting ovarian cancer decreased.
Women who took the contraceptive pill for one year only reduced the risk of ovarian cancer by 2.5 per cent. Women who had taken it for five years reduced their risk by 13 per cent and those using it for 10 years or more cut down their odds of getting ovarian cancer by 45 per cent, researchers at the European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC) found.
Scientists believe that this is because both the contraceptive pill and pregnancy heavily influence the key hormones in the body thought to trigger tumours.
Sara Hiom, of Cancer Research UK, explains: 'These days it is not uncommon for women to have fewer children or none at all, women tend to be unaware that these reproductive factors have a protective effect on their risk of ovarian cancer.'
She added: 'Treatment for ovarian cancer is better if the disease is caught as early as possible. So all women should be aware of the signs of ovarian cancer, like pain in the lower tummy, bloating, increased tummy size, difficulty eating or feeling full.'
However, while long term use of the contraceptive pill may offer protection from ovarian cancer, evidence also suggests it may increase the risk of breast cancer.
Dr Richard Edmondson, women’s cancer specialist at the University of Newcastle, says: 'To put this in context, it is estimated that if 100,000 women use the pill for 10 years or more there will be 50 more breast cancers than would have otherwise occurred, but 12 fewer ovarian cancers.'
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