MAR 09, 2020 1:11 PM PDT

The down-low on IUDs and cervical cancer

A recent study from Columbia University Irving Medical Center reviewed the risk of cervical cancer among women using intrauterine devices (IUDs) as a contraceptive. While previous studies from the 1980s suggested a reduced risk of cervical cancer among women using IUDs, the majority of these studies did not consider the differences among the available IUDs, largely due to the fact that they were conducted before the availability of many hormonal IUDs. This new study, which was published in Obstetrics & Gynecology under the title "Relative Risk of Cervical Neoplasms Among Copper and Levonorgestrel-Releasing Intrauterine System Users," aimed to take a more comprehensive view of the wide range of available IUDs and their effects on cervical cancer risk.

After looking at forty years of data from the Columbia University Irving Medical Center database through the OMOP Common Data Model, the research team analyzed over 10,000 patients who received IUDs to determine the risk of cervical neoplasms (cervical cancer).

They found that women who used copper intrauterine devices were found to have a lower risk of high-grade cervical neoplasms compared to women who had hormonal levonorgestrel-releasing IUDs. Of those with copper IUDs, the diagnosis rate of cervical cancer was 0.7%, compared to 1.8% in women with hormonal IUDs.

"Copper and hormonal IUDs may have different physiological effects on the female genitourinary system," says lead author Matthew Spotnitz, MD, MPH, a Postdoctoral Research Scientist within the Department of Biomedical Informatics. "Consequently, the risk of cervical neoplasms may be different for copper and hormonal IUD users. Our findings may help patients and healthcare providers make informed decisions about whether the benefits of hormonal IUD use, compared to copper IUD use, are greater than the risks."

Over 100 million women use IUDs worldwide. Photo: Pixabay

"The proportions of women who use copper and hormonal IUDs may vary among institutions," Spotnitz says. "Overall, IUD use has become more popular over the past 20 years. Copper IUD use has remained constant whereas hormonal IUD use has increased. The rising popularity of hormonal IUDs may be related to the fact that they decrease the pain and bleeding of menses."

Over 100 million women use IUDs worldwide, meaning the findings from this study have a large audience. The authors hope their research will move forward the conversation about women’s health; they plan to continue their investigations in the future.  

Sources: NCBI, Eureka Alert!

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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