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Smoking and Oral Contraceptives:

A new study shows oral contraceptives are safe for non-smokers but can be deadly for women who smoke. The study began 35 years ago and included 17,000 women.

Oral contraceptives were widely used in the 1970s and 1980s. There has long been a question of whether being on the birth control pill could increase your chance for cancer or other fatal diseases. As part of the Oxford Family Planning Association study, researchers from the Institute of Health Sciences in England looked at the deaths associated with oral contraceptives use and cigarette smoking.//
The women in the study were between 25 and 39 years old. They either used oral contraceptives, a contraceptive diaphragm or an intrauterine device. Follow-up information was available on the women up until 2000. By that time, researchers report 889 of the 17,000 women had died. Researchers looked at the cause of death and which contraceptive they used.
The study reports there was no increased risk of death among the women who used the birth control pill compared to the women who never used oral contraceptives. In fact, the numbers suggest the death rate was lower among those who were on birth control pills. However, there was an increased risk of death from heart disease in women who used the oral contraceptive and smoked. Specifically, there was a 25-percent increased risk of death for light smokers. The study also found women who smoked more than 15 cigarettes a day and were taking oral contraceptives were twice as likely to die than non-smokers.

Researchers say this study confirms what three other studies have found in that there is no adverse effect from oral contraceptive use in non-smokers. Study authors say this should be a reassuring finding for many older women today. However, the study also confirms that smoking and oral contraceptive use can be a deadly combination.


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