Low-dose oral contraceptives: protective effect on ovarian cancer risk

Int J Cancer. 2001 Nov 20;95(6):370-4. doi: 10.1002/1097-0215(20011120)95:6<370::aid-ijc1065>3.0.co;2-t.


Low-dose oral contraceptive (OC) formulations containing 35 microg or less ethinyl estradiol have preferably been prescribed in the last decade, however, few data exist on its relation to ovarian cancer risk. We determined the effects of low-dose OC on the risk of ovarian cancer in a population-based case-control study, including 282 patients ages 20-75 years at diagnosis of incident primary invasive ovarian cancer or borderline tumour between 1993-1996 and 533 control subjects individually matched by age and study area to each case. Analysis excluded women who had undergone a bilateral ovariectomy or had a previous diagnosis of either ovarian cancer or borderline tumour. The association of OC use by ethinyl estradiol dose and ovarian cancer risk was assessed by odds ratios (OR), adjusting simultaneously for the other OC types and determinants of ovarian cancer risk. Ovarian cancer risk was significantly reduced by 52% for ever use of any type of OC. The reduction in risk was 7% per year of use (OR = 0.93, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.90-0.96) and was more evident in first-use subjects younger than 25 years. Risk reduction for ovarian cancer was substantial for use of low-dose OC, the odds ratios being 0.86 (95% CI = 0.77-0.94), 0.91 (95% CI = 0.83-1.00), and 0.95 (95% CI = 0.91-0.99) per year of using OC containing <35 microg, 35-<50 microg, and >or=50 microg ethinyl estradiol, respectively. Our study provides evidence that low-dose oral contraceptives confer substantial protection against the development of ovarian cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Contraceptives, Oral / therapeutic use*
  • Estradiol Congeners / therapeutic use
  • Ethinyl Estradiol / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors


  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Estradiol Congeners
  • Ethinyl Estradiol