The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has released a new study that links douching with ovarian cancer.
Douching is the process of cleaning the vagina with water or vinegar with a device that's sold in drugstores. Anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of women aged 15 to 44 use a vaginal douche according to WebMD.
Prior research has linked douching to vaginal infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, and other health complications. This is the first study, however, to associate douching with ovarian cancer.
The NIEHS reported that people who douched doubled their risk of ovarian cancer. The tie was even stronger when the authors looked at participants without a family history of breast cancer.
"While most doctors and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly recommend that women do not douche, many women continue to douche because they falsely perceive douching to have positive health benefits, such as increased cleanliness," epidemiology professor at the University of California, San Francisco, Joelle Brown, told Reuters Health.
According to the Office of Women's Health of the US Department of Health and Human Services, the vagina is self-cleaning. Using outside cleansers and chemicals may temper with the body's natural balance and result in an overgrowth of bacteria.
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"In general, I think women do not realize that douching products do not fall under the same kind of safety regulation as drugs," Brown said.
According to Brown, douching products are seen as cosmetics, not drugs. Because of this, the US Food and Drug Administration does not requite manufacturers to check their safety.
An author of the study and deputy chief of the biostatistics and computational biology branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, Clarice Weinberg, said this finding is unprecedented. She said, "There are a number of health reasons not to douche, and I can't think of any reason to do it."