WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Intrauterine devices are not only among the most effective contraceptives, but they also can help protect women from a cancer of the uterus called endometrial cancer, researchers reported on Tuesday.
Doctors often forget the devices, known commonly as IUDs, can treat endometriosis, Dr. David Grimes of Family Health International in Chapel Hill, North Carolina told a meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in New Orleans.
"IUD use among women is associated with a 40 percent reduction in the risk of endometrial cancer, similar to the cancer protection provided by oral contraceptives, yet many clinicians are not aware of that," Grimes said in a statement.
"The IUD is underutilized as a contraceptive in the United States," he added. "Research is showing that it has health benefits far beyond preventing pregnancy."
An IUD is a small, T-shaped plastic device inserted into the uterus. Hormonal IUDs release small amounts of the hormone progestin, preventing pregnancy by preventing fertilization. The copper IUD releases small amounts of copper into the uterus to prevent pregnancy.
The hormones also help prevent endometrial cancer, a rare cancer of the lining of the uterus. Women who take contraceptive pills also have a lower risk of this disease.
"Only 2 percent of women who use contraception in the United States choose an IUD, despite the proven safety and effectiveness of this long-term contraception," said Grimes, who also teaches at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
"Worldwide, however, IUDs are the most widely used reversible contraceptive." (Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Julie Steenhuysen)