For most women, the increased risk of lupus is quite small, said Dr. Noel Rose, director of the Autoimmune Disease Research Center at Johns Hopkins University, who was not involved in the study. "One shouldn't oversell this. Women taking oral contraceptives need to weigh the risk/benefit of unexpected pregnancy versus a very small increase in lupus."
The increased risk isn't the same for all women taking oral contraceptives, Rose said. "This is probably a risk that only people who are genetically predisposed are likely to ever encounter," he said.
Dr. Bevra Hahn, chief of rheumatology and arthritis at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, thinks the new study can be helpful in prescribing oral contraceptives.
"The higher the dose of estradiol in women who have been started on oral contraceptives in the past three months, the higher the risk for developing" lupus, Hahn said. "That's the highest risk I've ever seen --meaning women have a little over three times the chance of developing lupus in the first three months of taking an oral contraceptive."
"That is very useful information in terms of what oral contraceptive one prescribes," she said.
Hahn agreed that women need to weigh the risk of developing lupus to the risk of getting pregnant. "There isn't any effective treatment I know of that isn't accompanied by some risk. So she just has to decide which risk she thinks is greater."
For more on lupus, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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