By Kathy Walsh

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – Every 40 hours, a Colorado woman dies from ovarian cancer. It accounts for more than 22,000 deaths worldwide each year. Now, new research done at University of Colorado School of Medicine finds women who use intrauterine devices (IUDs) for birth control may be lowering their risk of ovarian cancer.

University of Colorado Anschutz Campus (credit: CBS)

The researchers analyzed studies of thousands of women from the U.S., Italy, Mexico, China and more. They found the rates of deadly ovarian cancer decreased by up to 32% among women who use IUDs.

That gives Amy Dickson Plache hope for her daughter.

“It was unpleasant, but not, not intolerable,” Amy said about her own cancer treatment.

For five years, Amy has bravely battled ovarian cancer with chemotherapy, clinical trials, radiation and more. Even now, she’s in treatment.

Amy Dickson Plache (credit: CBS)

“I won’t be cured,” she told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh. “But, I’ll just live with this as a chronic disease much like, you know, someone who had diabetes or arthritis.”

Amy has an inherited mutation on one of the breast cancer genes, BRCA 2, also known to increase the risk of ovarian cancer.

Tests show so does her daughter, Abby.

iud ovarian cancer study cu anschutz

Amy Dickson Plache with her daughter Abby. (credit: CBS)

“That was pretty hard for me to take,” said Amy. “It was terrifying to think that it could happen to her.”

“It was shocking and obviously scary. There’s so many unknowns with cancer,” said 30-year-old Abby Plache.

But unbeknownst to the Plaches, Abby’s choice for birth control, an IUD, may actually reduce her risk.

iud ovarian cancer study cu anschutz

(credit: CBS)

“I think this data is incredibly compelling,” said Dr. Saketh Guntupalli, Director of Gynecologic Oncology at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.

He is the Plache’s oncologist. He and Dr. Lindsay Wheeler are two of the doctors at CU School of Medicine who analyzed 11 international studies.

“We found that the risk of ovarian cancer was decreased when a patient had a history of IUD use,” said Wheeler, the study’s lead author and a Gynecologic Oncology Fellow at CU School of Medicine.

The risk reduction ranged from 15 to 32%. The belief is it may be tied to the hormones in some IUDs.

“It could be related to an anti-estrogen effect,” said Wheeler.

Or the researchers think it could be related to the increase in immune cells due to an IUD’s inflammatory effect.

“We know that immune cells are increasingly thought of as being involved in cancer prevention,” said Guntupalli.

iud ovarian cancer study cu anschutz

(credit: CBS)

For the Plaches, it’s a win.

“It’s just terrific,” said Amy.

“I do genuinely feel like it’s a big step in the right direction for prevention and maybe a cure someday,” said Abby.

While the doctors believe this is good news for women, they suggest you talk to your OBGYN about the best means of contraception for you.

Kathy Walsh

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