IUDs are among the most effective forms of birth control, but new research suggests that they may also be associated with a surprising health benefit.
A study from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California found that using an IUD has been linked to a "dramatic" decrease in the incidence of cervical cancer.
The study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, analyzed multiple studies on IUDs and cervical cancer involving more than 12,000 women, and found that those who use an IUD were 30% less likely to get cervical cancer.
"The pattern we found was stunning. It was not subtle at all," Victoria Cortessis, the study's lead author, said in a statement. "The possibility that a woman could experience some help with cancer control at the same time she is making contraception decisions could potentially be very, very impactful."
Though the cervical cancer death rate in America has decreased in the last 40 years, according to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women living in less developed regions.
"A staggering number of women in the developing world are on the verge of entering the age range where the risk for cervical cancer is the highest — the 30s to the 60s," Cortessis said. "Even if the rate of cervical cancer remains steady, the actual number of women with cervical cancer is poised to explode. IUDs could be a tool to combat this impending epidemic."
But it's not time to start getting IUDs as a preventative measure against cervical cancer just yet — this is just one study, and more work needs to be done to determine whether or not IUDs actually have the protective effect that researchers are theorizing about.
Still, the results of the study suggest a lot of potential for what IUDs might be able to do beyond birth control.
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