‘Contraceptive pills driving fall in ovarian cancer deaths’
Widespread use of oral contraceptives is driving the fall in the number of deaths from ovarian cancer worldwide, according to a new study. Deaths from ovarian cancer fell worldwide between 2002 and 2012 and are predicted to continue to decline in the US, European Union (EU) and, though to a smaller degree, in Japan by 2020, researchers said.
The main reason is the use of oral contraceptives and the long-term protection against ovarian cancer that they provide, said researchers, led by Professor Carlo La Vecchia from the University of Milan in Italy.
The decline in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to manage menopausal symptoms and better diagnosis and treatment may also play a role, they said. Using data on deaths from ovarian cancer from 1970 to the most recent available year from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the researchers found that in the 28 countries of the EU (minus Cyprus due to the unavailability of data) death rates decreased by 10 per cent between 2002 and 2012, from an age standardised death rate per 100,000 women of 5.76 to 5.19.
In the US the decline was even greater, with a 16 per cent drop in death rates from 5.76 per 100,000 in 2002 to 4.85 in 2012.
In Canada, ovarian cancer death rates decreased over the same period by nearly 8 per cent from 5.42 to 4.95.
In Japan, which has had a lower rate of ovarian cancer deaths than many countries, the rate fell by 2 per cent from 3.3 to 3.28 per 100,000. Large decreases occurred in Australia and New Zealand between 2002 and 2011. In Australia the death rate declined by nearly 12 per cent from 4.84 to 4.27, and in New Zealand they dropped by 12 per cent from 5.61 to 4.93 per 100,000 women.
However, the pattern of decreases was inconsistent in some areas of the world, for instance in Latin American countries and in Europe, researchers said. In European, the decrease ranged from 0.6 per cent in Hungary to over 28 per cent in Estonia, while Bulgaria was the only European country to show an apparent increase. In the UK, there was a 22 per cent decrease in death rates. Other EU countries that had large decreases included Austria (18%), Denmark (24%) and Sweden (24%).
The research was published in the journal Annals of Oncology.