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Rethinking IUD Risks

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Contrary to popular belief that intrauterine devices raise a woman's risk for cervical cancer, a new Lancet Oncology study suggests the devices may actually do the opposite, reports Reuters' Kate Kelland. The study, conducted by researchers in Spain, shows that although IUDs don't protect women from contracting HPV, they can stop cervical cancer from developing. In fact, the study showed that women who had an IUD had half the risk of developing ovarian cancer as women who didn't have an IUD, Kelland says. "While IUDs, also known as coils, are unlikely to be recommended as way of preventing cervical cancer … the research should reassure women and their doctors that using them carries no added risk of the disease," she says. The researchers were surprised by the results of their work, but tell Kelland that a possible explanation could be that the process of inserting and removing the devices destroys pre-cancerous cells, or that the device itself causes some kind of inflammation that prompts an immune response that prevents an HPV infection from progressing to cervical cancer.

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