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The Pill: Women's Wonder Drug

More than 10 million American women take birth control pills and many of them are probably unaware of the health benefits that come with the pill.

A study out in Thursday's New England Journal Of Medicine has found yet another reason why the Pill isn't just for preventing pregnancy any more.

"What the study showed was that it can decrease a woman's chances of getting ovarian cancer for six years or more of use, you're looking at a 60 percent reduction" says health contributor Dr. Bernadine Healy.

Ovarian cancer is usually picked up too late, killing more American women than any other gynecological cancers combined.

Even though there are no easy screening tests and it is not well defined who is at risk, it is believed that it can sometimes run in families.

The study selected women who had an increase genetic risk and found that the pill may protect them from developing cancer.

Birth control pills shut down the ovary. As a result, the ovary isn't being stimulated from month to month and ovulation ceases.

It's believed that by stopping ovulation ovarian cancer diminishes. So not only the average woman can be protected but also the pill may protect those who are at high risk.

If you take the pill for 3-6 months, you can decrease your future ovarian cancer by 40 percent. If you take it for 7 years, you will reduce your risk by 60 to 80 percent.

Beyond ovarian cancer pelvic inflammatory disease is also reduced by half and colon cancer by as much as 40 percent.

Studies have shown it can reduce the risk of endometrial cancer, which is cancer of the lining of the uterus, by 50 percent.

" Some women are put on it as a way of dealing with the endometriosis. We're seeing less ovarian cysts, it suppress fibroid growth that can have a beneficial effect on benign breast disease," says Dr. Healy.

The only concern is there is some controversy weather or not the Pill increases the chance of getting breast cancer.

"The belief is that with the lower doses of birth control pills that we're using today, the risk is not appreciable but it's a concern."

Recent analysis of dozens of studies of more than 150,000 pill users showed that they had no increase risk for breast cancer 10 or more years after they stopped taking birth control pills.

The Pill, however, is not for everyone and it is important to remember that it will not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases.

What it does prevent is pregnancy.