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IUDs May Protect Women from Cervical Cancer

Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Intrauterine devices (IUDs), the small plastic devices inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy, may also offer women protection against cervical cancer, according to a new study published in The Lancet.

An international team of researchers analyzed 26 studies that included nearly 20,000 women from 14 countries and found that the risk of cervical cancer in women who used IUDs was nearly half that of women who never used them.

While the researchers did not find a link between IUDs and a lower risk of infection with human papilloma virus (HPV), the virus that leads to cervical cancer, the study's authors believe IUDs may cause an immune response that can get rid of the virus once it enters the body.

"The hypothesis is that an IUD, because it's a foreign body, creates an inflammatory response that gets rid of the HPV, which reduces the risk of cervical cancer," said Dr. Howard Jones, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Previous studies have found IUD use reduces the risk of endometrial cancer, but few have looked at the relationship between IUDs and cervical cancer.

Experts not involved with the research say while the findings offer important insight into how cervical cancer develops, clinicians are unlikely to change how they prescribe IUDs as a result of this research since this study does not determine whether a cause-and-effect relationship exists between IUDs and cervical cancer.  The study also did not evaluate specific types of IUDs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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