To examine prospectively the association between modern oral contraceptives with low doses of estrogen and progestin and subsequent incidence of NIDDM.
In a prospective cohort study, 98,590 U.S. female nurses aged 25 to 42 and free of diagnosed diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer at baseline in 1989 were followed for 4 years. Endpoint was incidence of confirmed NIDDM. Oral contraceptive use was reported on mailed questionnaires.
During 352,067 person-years follow-up, we confirmed 185 incident cases of NIDDM. After adjusting for age, BMI, cigarette smoking, family history of diabetes, parity, physical activity, alcohol intake, ethnicity, history of diagnosis of infertility, elevated cholesterol, and hypertension, women currently using oral contraceptives had a relative risk (RR) of 1.6 (95% CI, 0.9–3.1). For past users, the multivariate RR was 1.2 (95% CI, 0.8–1.8). This association was attenuated after restricting the analysis to symptomatic cases of NIDDM. For current users, RR = 1.3 (95% CI, 0.6–2.8), and for past users, RR = 0.9 (95% CI, 0.6–1.4), suggesting that increased surveillance may explain at least part of any excess risk.
In this large prospective study, we found no appreciable increase in the 4-year risk of NIDDM among current users of oral contraceptives. There was no apparent increase in risk among past users. The small number of cases reflect the low absolute risk of NIDDM in this population of young women.