According to new research published in the leading cancer journal Annals of Oncology, death rates from ovarian cancer are predicted to fall by 17% in 2022 in the UK and by 7% in EU countries in 2022 compared to 2017.
Researchers led by Carlo La Vecchia (MD), a professor at the University of Milan (Italy), say that these dramatic falls are due mainly to the use of oral contraceptives, which also account for the differences between countries.
“The earlier and greater use of oral contraceptives in the UK than in most EU countries for generations of women born since the 1930s has a major role in these trends,” said Professor La Vecchia. “In Italy, Spain, Poland etc, oral contraceptives were made available considerably later, and hence the favourable trends in these countries started later and are smaller.
“Long-term use of oral contraceptives reduces the risk of ovarian cancer by 40% in middle-aged and elderly women,” said Prof La Vecchia. “Other factors may also be partially responsible, such as a reduced use of hormone replacement therapy. Improvements in diagnosis, surgery and the use of better treatments, such as platinum-based drugs in the 1980s, taxanes in the 1990s and more recently, gemcitabine, intra-peritoneal chemotherapy, possibly bevacizumab, and PARP inhibitors for women with BRCA mutations, may all contribute to improved survival. However, these factors are minor compared to the long-term protective effect of oral contraceptives. We expect these favourable trends in ovarian cancer deaths to continue.”