Douching may double the risk of ovarian cancer

A Hygeine Habit May Double Risk of Ovarian Cancer

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.

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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.

RELATED: Top recommended health products by pharmacists

US News ​Pharmacists' picks: Top recommended health products
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US News ​Pharmacists' picks: Top recommended health products

The first step to accessing the recommendations is to select from among the following broad product groups. Here are the 13, along with standout winners.

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Cough, Cold and Allergy

- Cold Remedies: Cepacol

- Oral Antihistamines: Claritin

- Oral Decongestants: Sudafed (pseudoephedrine)

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Diabetes Health

- Diabetic Neuropathy Products: Capzasin

- Diabetic Multivitamins: Nature Made

- Oral Glucose Products: Glucerna

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- Blood Sampling Devices/Lancets: OneTouch

- Blood Pressure Monitors: Omron

- Peak Flow Meters: Omron

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Eyes, Ears, Nose and Throat 

- Contact Lens Solutions: Opti-Free 

- Saline Nasal Moisturizers: Ocean

- Sore Throat Liquids, Sprays and Strips: Chloraseptic

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First Aid

- Adhesive Bandages: Band-Aid

- Topical Antibiotics and Antiseptics: Neosporin

- Sun Burn Relief: Solarcaine (Cool Aloe Burn Relief Formula Pain Relieving Gel)

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Oral Care

- Cold Sore Treatments: Abreva

- Toothpaste (general use): Crest 

- Therapeutic Mouthwashes/Oral Rinses: Listerine

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Pain and Inflammation

- Headache Products: Advil

- Migraine Headache Products: Excedrin Migraine

- Anti-Inflammatory Products: Advil

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- Children’s Cough and Cold Combinations: Children’s Dimetapp

- Infant Formula: Enfamil

- Children’s Sore Throat Products: Chloraseptic Kids Sore Throat Spray

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Stomach and GI

- Upset Stomach Remedies: Pepto-Bismol

- Antacids: Tums

- Nausea Remedies: Emetrol

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- Sunscreen: Neutrogena

- Lip Balms: Carmex

- Acne Products: Neutrogena

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Vitamins and Supplements

- Nutritional Supplements: Ensure

- Multivitamins: Centrum

- Prenatal Vitamins: One A Day Prenatal

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Women's Health

- Menstrual Pain Relief: Midol

- PMS Symptom Relief: Hyland’s PMS

- Urinary Pain Relief: AZO Standard

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More Health Products

- Sleep Aids: Unisom

- Smoking Cessation Aids: NicoDerm CQ Patch

- Snore Aids: Breathe Right

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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."

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