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Lupus linked with COCs

Canadian research has indicated that women taking combined oral contraceptives are at increased risk of systemic lupus erythematosus

Canadian research, using data from the UK's General Practice Research Database, has indicated that women taking combined oral contraceptives (COCs) are at increased risk of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The overall risk, however, remains small.

The study identified 786 cases of SLE between 1994 and 2004 and matched each with up to 10 control subjects – women who did not have SLE. A new diagnosis of the disease was particularly associated with the first three months use of first- and second-generation COCs, which tend to contain higher doses of oestrogen. 

The researchers, led by Dr Samy Suissa of the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology at Jewish General Hospital of McGill University in Montreal, are not suggesting that COCs cause SLE, but rather that they may contribute to the risk in genetically-predisposed women. 

The ratio of women to men with SLE is about nine to one and incidence increases after puberty. This has led to investigation of the role hormones, such as oestrogen, have in the disease. 

The paper is published in Arthritis Care & Research.

14th April 2009

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