A history of oral contraceptive use and having at least one child increased longevity by nearly three years in patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer, according to a Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) study recently published online ahead of print in the International Journal of Gynecological Cancer.

“Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of death in women. Despite significant advances in earlier detection and targeted therapies, most women with ovarian cancer are still diagnosed at advanced stages and will eventually die from the disease,” says Kirsten Moysich, PhD, senior author of the study and Professor of Oncology in the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at Roswell Park. “This study found that prior oral contraceptive use and one live birth extended overall survival for ovarian cancer patients.”

A history of oral contraceptive use was associated with a 35-month improvement in survival (81 versus 46 months) in 387 women diagnosed with ovarian cancer between January 1982 and December 1998 at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. This association was even more pronounced when adjusted for age at diagnosis, stage of disease and ovarian cancer subtype. Additionally, patients who reported a single live birth lived more than four and a half years longer than those who never gave birth. However, the survival advantage was not significantly different between those who did and did not take oral contraceptive pills. Information evaluated included the type of treatment and tumor stage, grade and histologic type among patients enrolled in the RPCI tumor registry. This information was then matched to an epidemiologic survey administered at the time of diagnosis.

“The findings of this study underscore the importance of oral contraceptive use beyond the previously established benefit of a reduced ovarian cancer risk. Future efforts should be directed to determining the mechanism of interaction between reproductive factors and disease initiation or progression,” added J. Brian Szender, MD, one of the lead authors and a fellow in Gynecologic Oncology at RPCI.

The study, entitled “Oral Contraceptive Use and Reproductive Characteristics Affect Survival in Patients With Epithelial Ovarian Cancer: A Cohort Study,” is available online at journals.lww.com.

This work has been supported by National Cancer Institute (NCI) grants P30CA016056 and 5T32CA108456. The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.


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