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At the heart of general practice since 1960

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Oral contraceptives could be used to prevent cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer, US researchers claim.

According to the latest analysis of the Women's Health Initiative trial, women taking the Pill had significantly lower odds of suffering any cardiovascular disease than those not taking it.

And the researchers from Wayne State University in

Detroit, Michigan, found that after eight years' use, the odds of having endometrial and ovarian cancer were reduced by 42 per cent.

But RCGP spokesperson Dr Clare Gerada warned that GPs should not use the Pill as a cardioprotective agent.

'We would not advocate women staying on the Pill longer than they need to in the hope of it being a cancer prevention tool,' she said.

The trial, which involved 161,809 women, did not distinguish between types of Pill used but study leader and

obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Rahi Victory said oestrogen might reduce inflammation of the blood vessels. 'In women with no other risk factors, the Pill could be used to prevent cardiovascular events and some cancers,' he said.

But Dr Gerada warned: 'While we welcome any new research on the Pill there are other more important factors at play surrounding heart disease and cancer risk in women such as family history, smoking, alcohol, diet and exercise.'

The findings were presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Philadelphia last month.

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