Lead study author Victoria Cortessis of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles said that the protective effect of IUDs can only be "hypothesized" at this time based on these results.
Even so, the results suggest it's worth continuing to research the potential for IUDs to help prevent cervical cancer, said Dr. Michelle Moniz, an obstetrics and gynecology researcher at the University of MI in Ann Arbor who wasn't involved in the study.
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After analyzing the results, they found that the rate of cervical cancer was one-third lower in women who used IUDs compared to those who did not. The studies also included information on risk factors for the disease, such as age at first vaginal intercourse and if the women had HPV. The review titled, "Intrauterine Device Use and Cervical Cancer Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis" from the Keck School of Medicine of USC appeared in the online November issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Cervical cancer is treatable and associated with long survival when detected early. And despite the analysis of confounding variables and robust size of the review, there will still be concern about lingering confounding variables until there is a clinical study, he said.
However, Dr Pradeep Tanwar, who investigates gynaecological cancers, said the study was limiting.
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).
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High incidence of cervical cancer across the globe is a key driver for the growth of global cervical cancer therapies and diagnostics market.
Should more studies prove the IUD can indeed prevent cancer, it may make sense to consider this prevention tool in addition to HPV vaccination, cervical cancer screening, condom use and safe sex, Moniz said by email. 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.
"Would I recommend an IUD exclusively for cervical cancer prevention?".
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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 explains. It comes in two types - one is made of copper, while the other is plastic and emits a small amount of the female hormone progestin. Numerous studies, for example, did not include HIV status or family history of cervical cancer, both of which raise the risk of cervical cancer. For that, you need a barrier form of contraception, such as condoms.