Patients who develop ovarian cancer may have improved outcomes if they have prior oral contraceptive use, a study published in the journal BMC Cancer has shown.1

“Multiple studies from a variety of sources have indicated that oral contraceptives are associated with a reduced risk of ovarian cancer, one of the most deadly cancers in women,” says Aminah Jatoi, MD, an oncologist at Mayo Clinic and co-lead author of the study.

“However, few studies have explored the connection between the pill and outcomes in patients who ultimately develop the disease.”

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For the study, researchers surveyed 1398 patients with ovarian cancer about prior oral contraceptive use. Of those, 827 reported previously taking birth control pills.

Results showed that patients who had taken oral contraceptives have an improved progression-free survival compared with those who did not take them. Univariate analysis, but not multivariate analysis, also demonstrated an improvement in overall survival in those with prior oral contraceptive use.

Although how oral contraceptives improve ovarian cancer outcomes is not yet clear, the authors postulate that contraceptives may reduce the risk of DNA mutations by protecting against the repeated monthly changes that occur on the surface of the ovary during ovulation. By reducing the risk or DNA mutations, the disease may be less aggressive later on.


  1. Previous oral contraceptive use associated with better outcomes in patients with ovarian cancer [news release]. EurekAlert! web site. Published November 11, 2015. Accessed November 12, 2015.