Intended for healthcare professionals


Oral contraception and health

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 09 January 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:69

Long term study of mortality shows no overall effect in a developed country

  1. David C G Skegg, Professor
  1. Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin, New Zealand

    General practice p 96

    Oral contraceptives have been studied more intensively than any other medication in history. Yet the recent brouhaha about third generation oral contraceptives and venous thromboembolism is only the latest in a series of “pill scares” over more than three decades. For some mysterious reason these periodic crises have been a particular feature of Britain; during the 1980s, for example, false alarms about major effects on breast cancer risk created greater consternation in Britain than elsewhere. While the British media have often produced more heat than light, scientists in Britain have contributed more than their share of evidence about the safety of oral contraceptives. One project that has become a landmark of epidemiology is the Royal College of General Practitioners' oral contraception study, and this week sees another publication from the study (p 96).1

    In 1968Dr Clifford Kay and his colleagues persuaded 1400general practitioners to enrol 46000 women (half of whom were using oral contraceptives at the time) into a follow up study. Meticulous observations over many years have produced important information about many health outcomes. 23 In …

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