Study suggests newer oral contraceptives may be less harmful for women smokers

ntraceptives to take, especially among women who continue to smoke," Straneva said. "For some women, the newer contraceptives may impart less risk, but that's a choice that ultimately needs to be made between a woman and her doctor."

The newer third-generation oral contraceptives might not be appropriate for all women, she said. One study suggested the medications might be linked with a higher risk of blood clot formation, while another more recent investigation indicated that might be true only for women genetically predisposed to clotting.

Some 22 million U.S. women continue to smoke, and many of them take oral contraceptives, Girdler said. Previous research has shown that smokers who take oral contraceptives face a higher risk of premature death than smokers who don't take oral contraceptives, and women who are on the pill but do not smoke.

However, those statistics were based on older formulations of the pill, some of which are no longer made, she said. Clearly, more research on newer formulations needs to be done.

The National Institutes of Health and the UNC-CH Women's Health Research Grants Committee supported the research. Other authors of the report were Dr. Alan Hinderliter, associate professor of medicine; Dr. Ellen Wells, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology; and research assistant Healther Lenahan.

While both smoking and oral contraceptives have been studied extensively, the new research is believed to be the first to examine cardiovascular responses to stress among smokers taking different formulations of the drugs. Its limitations included its relatively small size and that volunteers were not randomly assigned to the contraceptives they took.


Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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