Ovarian cancer is the most common cancer among women. It accounts for about 4 percent of all cancers in women, with more than 23,000 new cases diagnosed in 2001. Progestin is the ingredient in oral contraceptive pills that provides the highest level of protection against ovarian cancer. Analysis by the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center of a 20-year-old study showed that the pill can help prevent ovarian cancer.
The study is based on examination of the medical and oral contraceptive histories of more than 3,200 women who took part in a study. The groups included women who took no pills; those who took pills high in both estrogen and progestin; women who took pills high in one or the other of the hormones, and women who took pills with low levels of both hormones.
The research showed that pills with lower hormone levels were effective contraceptives and pills with lower levels of hormone generally have fewer side effects. The researchers found that the cancer risk was cut by about 50 percent in all women taking pills containing the hormones estrogen and progestin. However, women who took pills containing high levels of progestin reduced their risk of ovarian cancer by an additional 50 percent.