Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Ovarian neoplasms, functional ovarian cysts, and oral contraceptives.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987; 294 doi: (Published 13 June 1987) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1987;294:1518
  1. M Vessey,
  2. A Metcalfe,
  3. C Wells,
  4. K McPherson,
  5. C Westhoff,
  6. D Yeates


    The incidence of ovarian neoplasms and functional ovarian cysts diagnosed at laparotomy or laparoscopy among the 17,000 women taking part in the Oxford Family Planning Association contraceptive study was investigated. Epithelial cancer of the ovary was only 25% as common among those who had ever taken oral contraceptives as those who had never done so (95% confidence interval 8% to 67%). There was little evidence of any important association between use of oral contraceptives and benign teratoma or cystadenoma. Functional cysts of the ovary occurred much less commonly in women who had recently (in the six months preceding diagnosis) taken combined oral contraceptives (but not in those who had taken progestogen only oral contraceptives) than in those who had never taken oral contraceptives or had taken them in the past. This protective effect was more pronounced for corpus luteum cysts (78% reduction; 95% confidence interval 47% to 93%) than for follicular cysts (49% reduction; 95% confidence interval 20% to 70%). It is estimated that about 28 (95% confidence interval 16 to 35) operations for functional ovarian cysts are avoided among every 100,000 women who take oral contraceptives each year.