Women who use an IUD were protected against cervical cancer, cutting risk by half, and preventing HPV.
The scientists believe the protective effect of IUDs could be that the process of inserting or removing them destroys pre-cancerous cells, or that it causes some kind of inflammation that prompts a long-lasting immune response and prevents the HPV from progressing.
Virtually all cervical cancer cases are linked to genital infection with HPV, which is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract.
Karl Ulrich Petry of the Wolfsburg Clinic in Wolfsburg, Germany, described the results as “surprising” and likely to prompt a probe in failures in the widening program to screen women for cervical cancer.
The study, published in The Lancet Oncology, showed that women who reported using an IUD had almost half the risk of cervical cancer as other women who didn’t. Though IUDs are popular in Europe, theyâ€™re used by only about 5.5 percent of American women, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
An IUD is a form of birth control; it is an object, placed in the uterus, to prevent pregnancy. The two types available are copper-containing devices, and a hormone-containing device that releases a progestogen. Currently, there are over 10 different kinds of copper IUDs in various parts of the world, and there is one hormonal device, called Mirena.
Though greatly improved now, American women stopped using them when introduced in the 1970s due to infections caused by the IUDs. Researchers have long known that the small T-shaped devices prevent implantation of a fertilized egg and lower the risk of uterine cancer. The one product linked to the early infections have since been taken off the market.
Women can also feel comfortable having the device inserted before they have children, according to the latest advice issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists last June.
One of the most common symptoms of cervical cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, but in some cases there may be no obvious symptoms until it’s in the advanced stages.