Current perspectives on oral contraceptive use Conference Paper uri icon

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  • Oral contraceptives are one of the most highly effective forms of contraception and provide many short- and long-term noncontraceptive health benefits. They control menstrual cycle irregularities, such as breakthrough bleeding and amenorrhea, and are effective in treating dysfunctional uterine bleeding. In addition, for decades after oral contraceptive use is discontinued they are associated with substantial decreases in the risk of ovarian cancer (up to 80%) and of endometrial cancer (40%-50%), and nearly eliminate benign functional ovarian cysts. Long-term oral contraceptive use confers protection against benign breast disease and colorectal cancer, may help prevent rheumatoid arthritis, decreases ectopic pregnancy and hospitalizations for pelvic inflammatory disease, and helps preserve bone mineral density to reduce risk of fractures. Large bodies of evidence from extensive research have clarified the perceived association of oral contraceptive use with cardiovascular disease and with breast cancer. Findings indicate that there is no increased risk of myocardial infarction or stroke associated with oral contraceptive use in healthy, nonsmoking, normotensive women. Although there is a 3- to 4-fold increased risk of venous thromboembolism with current oral contraceptive use, the absolute risk is very small and is half that associated with pregnancy. Women of all reproductive ages, including perimenopausal women, can realize many health benefits through oral contraceptive use, including improved health status later in life.


  • Burkman, Ronald T
  • Collins, John
  • Shulman, Lee P
  • Williams, J Kell

publication date

  • August 2001