The contraceptive coil (also known as an intrauterine contraceptive device or IUD) is a T-shaped plastic or copper device inserted into a woman's womb.
The analysis included figures from 16 observational studies involving more than 12,000 women worldwide. These devices might be extremely effective in reducing the risk of developing cervical cancer, as those women who use them have a risk about a third lower than those who opt for other methods.
"We were really surprised by the extent of the reduction of the risk", stresses Victoria Cortessis, assistant professor of clinical preventive health care at the university of Southern California and one of the main co-authors. Adding, "The possibility that a woman could experience some help with cancer control at the same time she is making contraception decisions could potentially be very, very impact". The data included almost 5,000 women who developed cervical cancer and just over 7,500 women who did not.
Back then, IUDs were not recommended for use in women with two major risk factors for cervical cancer - multiple sexual partners and a history of sexually transmitted infections, Lichtenfeld explained.
By 2035, those numbers are expected to rise to more than 756,000 infections and 416,000 deaths, the United Nations health agency warns.
Researchers think IUDs might promote an immune response that kills off human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes virtually all cases of cervical cancer.
"One important conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that there is no associated increased risk of cervical cancer with IUD use", Sawaya said by email.
She said that even if the benefit is small, she believes it would be worthwhile for women to consider using an IUD. When an IUD is inserted, it triggers an immune response in the body that could "kick out" an HPV infection, she said. They can protect themselves against getting pregnant, while warding off the cervical cancer risk.
Not quite yet, but it could be on the horizon.
Understanding the mechanism of action behind the protective effect of IUDs is the next step, Cortessis said. Another possibility is that when an IUD is removed, some cervical cells that contain HPV infection or precancerous changes may be scraped off. What they assume is the fact that the device can trigger an immune response which acts against a possible HPV infection. There could have been other reasons for the results that were specific to the individual countries where the studies were carried out - a mix of developed nations, such as Spain, and developing nations, such as Kenya. These faculty direct the education of approximately 800 medical students and 1,000 students pursuing graduate and postgraduate degrees. But the one by the Keck School of Medicine of USC has definitely been eye-opening and will likely lead to more and more research, which is a big win for women's health.