IUDs May Raise Breast Cancer Risk for Some Women

A new study out of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology indicates that a certain type of birth control may be associated with a heightened breast cancer risk in some women. Specifically, the study identifies the levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (LNG-IUS), a popular form or birth control, as a possible instigator of heightened risk because of the device's progesterone-releasing quality.

Progesterone is a hormone that naturally occurs in the female body to regulate ovulation by causing changes in the mucus around the cervix and the composition of the cervical lining. Levonorgestrel is a synthetic progesterone used in IUD contraceptives, but it's also used to treat women who suffer from heavy periods. Because it thickens the mucus in the cervix, it slows down bleeding.

According to CNN Health, researchers at the Hyviinka Hospital in Finland followed over 93,000 Finnish women between the ages of 30 and 49 to measure the correlation between the IUD and diagnoses of various types of cancers. All the women were using the IUD to treat heavy periods between 1994 and 2007. Though researchers saw no significant spike in uterine, ovarian, pancreatic or lung cancers, they did notice an increased risk for breast cancer.

While the study implicates the IUD as correlated with breast cancer rates, lead author Tuili Soini says further research is needed to determine whether it is the IUD or other shared factors in the demographic leading to the risk.

"One limitation of our study is that women suffering from heavy menstruation may in fact represent a selected group of women who may have other risk factors for cancer, such as factors related to lifestyle, genetic factors, just to name a few," Soini​ told the source.

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