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Combined oral contraceptives and cervical cancer

Moodley, Jack

Current Opinion in Obstetrics and Gynecology: February 2004 - Volume 16 - Issue 1 - p 27-29
Gynecologic oncology and pathology

Purpose of review The issue of whether there might be an increased risk of cervical cancer associated with the use of oral contraceptives has been debated for decades. Early studies found a modest association with long-term use. A literature review was performed over the past 3 years, to establish whether there is any new evidence linking cervical cancer with the use of oral contraceptives.

Recent findings A new analysis from eight studies conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and a systematic review of cervical cancer and the use of hormonal contraceptives are two recent major epidemiological links strongly suggesting the increased risk of cervical cancer (up to twofold), but only for women who were both long-term users (5 years or more) and who had persistent human papilloma virus infections of the cervix.

Summary These findings seem biologically plausible, but weighing the various risks and benefits, the World Health Organization does not recommend any change in oral contraceptive use or practice.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and MRC/UN Pregnancy Hypertension Research Unit, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, University of Natal, Durban, South Africa

Correspondence to Jack Moodley, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine, Private Bag 7, Congella 4013, South Africa Fax: +27 031 2604427; e-mail:

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.