Intrauterine devices may be helpful in lowering risk of cervical cancer, a new study published in the Obstetrics and Gynecology journal suggests.
Victoria Cortessis of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles led a team of researchers who examined data from 16 studies of over 12,000 women, some with cervical cancer, some without.
The studies, which were chosen based on their information about patients’ IUD use, found that women who used an IUD were 36% less likely to get cervical cancer than women who didn’t have them.
The theory is that the act of inserting the device may trigger a cellular response that acts against persistent HPV infections and pre-malignant cervical lesions.
“Even if the rate of cervical cancer remains steady, the actual number of women with cervical cancer is poised to explode,” Cortessis said in a statement. “IUDs could be a tool to combat this impending epidemic.”
Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among women globally. According to the study, as of 2014, less than 2% of eligible women in low-resource countries had received one or more of their HPV shots; experts at the World Health Organization expect rates to skyrocket to more than 700,000 new cases per year by 2035.
Because the study was based on meta-analysis, the researchers were unsure of IUD type (hormonal vs. nonhormonal), age or duration of use of the devices, so more research needs to be done.
Previous research has established a link between women who use non-hormonal IUDs and lower endometrial cancer incidence.
IUDs are small, T-shaped devices placed in the uterus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg. They can protect against pregnancy from three to up to 10 years.