A new study has found that women who use IUDs as a form of birth control have a lower chance of getting cervical cancer. This was after researchers looked at 16 different studies, which included over 12,000 women from all over the world, who were using intrauterine devices (IUD) in 2016.
The research, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, showed that the rate of cervical cancer among women who used IUDs occurred one-third less frequently in comparison to women who used different forms of contraception. It's the first systematic review to combine data on IUDs and cervical cancer.
Lead author Victoria Cortessis from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, however, acknowledges that further research still needs to take place to determine what part, if any, IUDs play in preventing the cancer.
"Our summary is only as good as the data out there, and there's still much more research that needs to be done before we can say that the IUD prevents cervical cancer, or recommend the IUD as a protective measure,” she told Live Science.
"[T]o be really convinced, we need to go back and do studies to find a mechanism."
Cortessis and colleagues believe that part of the reason why the IUD reduces the risk of women getting cervical cancer could be to do with the body launching an immune response when the IUD is used, and that this would be the jumping off point for further research.
“If we can demonstrate that the body mounts an immune response to having an IUD placed, for example, then we could begin investigating whether an IUD can clear a persistent HPV infection in a clinical trial,” co-author Laila Muderspach explained in a statement.
There are still several developing countries that still do not have access to cervical cancer screenings such as smear tests or the HPV vaccine to help reduce the risk of getting the HPV infection.
According to the WHO, approximately 528,000 women worldwide were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2012, with 266,000 of those dying. The WHO's projections have that rising to 756,000 diagnoses and 416,000 deaths by 2035.
“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. Even if the rate of cervical cancer remains steady, the actual number of women with cervical cancer is poised to explode,” Cortessis said. “IUDs could be a tool to combat this impending epidemic.”