A risk-benefit analysis of five alternative approaches to fertility control among US women over the age of 30 was performed: tubal ligation, vasectomy, intrauterine device, barrier method (condom), and combined oral contraceptives. Taken into account were age-specific probabilities of contraceptive failure, fecundability, spontaneous abortion, reproductive mortality (ectopic pregnancy, delivery, or induced abortion), life table mortality, and mortality from specific cancer sites (ovarian, endometrial, breast, and prostate) and cardiovascular disease. Relative to women using no contraceptive precautions, the use of any method of contraception between the ages of 30 and 50 was associated with net benefit in terms of averted deaths. However, when duration of observation was extended up to age 80, we predicted an excess of about 880 deaths from prostate cancer per 100,000users of vasectomy. Other methods continued to be associated with net benefit, ranging from 130 to 360 deaths averted per 100,000 users. It was concluded that the non-reproductive risks and benefits of contraceptive methods continue to be relevant long after the reproductive years. The balance of risks and benefits may differ in other countries with different cause-specific and life table mortality rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1994


  • contraception
  • mortality
  • risk-benefit analysis
  • tubal ligation
  • vasectomy


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