Contraception and lowering the risk of cancer | Letters

In her article on the increasing use of contraception to control menstruation (Why more and more women are giving up periods, G2, 18 July), Nicola Davis only briefly alluded to one of the biggest cancer prevention stories that most people are unaware of.

There is consistent evidence from large studies published over the last 15 years that women who used oral contraceptives have a 30-50% lower risk of ovarian cancer compared with women who have never used oral contraceptives.

The level of protection increases with the length of time of use and continues for decades after the oral contraceptive is stopped. Similar, slightly smaller levels of cancer reduction are seen for womb cancer. In contrast, the increased risk of breast cancer associated with oral contraceptive use is much more widely known, even though the level of risk is modest and disappears five-10 years after stopping the pill.

If more efforts can be made to extol the virtues of the pill as a cancer risk reduction agent, it is likely many more deaths from ovarian cancer can be prevented.
Dr Marc Tischkowitz
Reader in medical genetics, University of Cambridge

The recent government tender to provide free period products in schools is a worthy response to period poverty. But with the enormous amount of plastic period products thrown away daily in the UK, is this not an ideal opportunity to get an entire generation using sustainable products? Or to boost the agenda of plastic-free schools by 2022? So it’s hugely disappointing to see Procter & Gamble, the largest maker of plastic period products, on the advisory board. If the government bows to corporate short-termism in this small area, what chance do we have of beating wider climate crisis targets?
Alec Mills

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