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SOUTH AFRICAN MEDICAL JOURNAL. 1992 May 2; 81(9):444-5.The advantages and side effects of the injectable contraceptive, Depo-Provera, are highlighted. It has been available to women in South Africa and in about 90 developing and developed countries for 20 years. It is an effective and convenient contraceptive with no serious side effects. Its failure rate is 0.2-0.6/100 woman years. Nevertheless there is still concern that it may cause breast cancer because original tests of Depo-Provera using beagles indicated that it may increase breast cancer risk. WHO and the UK Committee on Safety of Medicines have since dropped the requirement of testing of beagles since they cannot predict the effects of steroids on women. A 12-year WHO multinational, hospital-based case-control study on neoplasia and hormonal contraceptives reassures Depo-Provera's safety. For example, the risk of breast cancer did not increase with duration or in women who had used it for >5 years. The risk was higher, however, among women who had used it for <4 years, particularly <35-year old women. The same holds true for oral contraceptive (OC) users. It has been suggested that this slight increase is because Depo-Provera and OCs may accelerate growth of some existing, previously undetected breast tumors. The WHO study verifies that the benefits of Depo-Provera surpass the side effects which include disturbed bleeding patterns, weight gain, and headaches. For example, it decreases the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer. It is even more beneficial in developing countries where women often suffer from anemia because it increases hemoglobin levels. Further since women in developing countries cannot always comply and take their OCs, Depo-Provera can grant them the protection they need against pregnancy thus saving many lives. Depo-Provera should be available in developed as well as in developing countries.