(Reuters Health) – Women who reported douching nearly doubled their risk of ovarian cancer, according to a national U.S. study.
Previous studies have linked vaginal douching, or douching with vaginal devices, to yeast infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, and ectopic pregnancy. Researchers have found a link between douching and cervical cancer, reduced fertility, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
But a new study from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is the first to link ovarian cancer to a procedure that millions of American women undergo regularly.
Joelle Brown, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, said she was aware of other health problems associated with douching, but the link between douching and ovarian cancer surprised her.
“While most doctors and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly advise against douching, many women have false beliefs that douching has health benefits, such as increased cleanliness,” she told Reuters Health by email. Brown was not involved in the current study.
Measures are needed to encourage women not to spray, she said.
Ovarian cancer is known as the “silent killer” because women do not experience any symptoms until the disease is in an advanced stage. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 20,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and about 14,500 of them die each year.