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Fam Plann Perspect. 1980 Nov-Dec;12(6):278-83.

The pill at 20: an assessment.



During the 20 years since the oral contraceptive was introduced, it has been used by some 150 million women around the world, and is perhaps the most carefully monitored medication in history. This vast body of research shows that for the overwhelming majority of healthy women under 30, the benefits of the pill continue to outweigh the risks. The most serious life threatening risks are those involving the cardiovascular system: heart attack, stroke, and throboembolism. However, deaths from these causes would be reduced by 1/2 if women using the pill did not smoke; further reductions would result if women with high blood pressure, high chloresterol levels and diabetes millitus did not use the pill. There is no evidence thus far to justify fears that the pill might be associated with an increased risk of cancer. Most studies show that not only is there no association between pill use and cancer of the ovaries, uterus and breast, but pill use may protect against ovarian and endometrial cancer. Women taking the pill are 1/4 as likely to develop benign breast lumps as nonusers, 1/14 as likely to develop ovarian cysts, 2/3 as likely to develop iron deficiency anemia, and 1/2 as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis -- all relatively common conditions. In addition, pelvic inflammatory disease, a major cause of infertility, appears to occur only 1/2 as often among pill users as among nonusers. The risk to life among pill users younger than 30 who do not smoke is very small (virtually the same as that of users of the IUD, diaphragm, or condom) and is much lower than the risk of birth-related deaths among women who use no birth control.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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