The findings suggest that oral contraceptives could be adding to the global burden of atherosclerosis.
The link was found in the Asklepios study, which involved 2,524 adults aged 35-55, all of whom had healthy cardiovascular profiles.
For the study, vascular echography of the carotid and femoral arteries was taken to gauge levels of plaque.
Among the 1,301 women taking part in the study, 27 per cent were taking oral contraceptives and 10 per cent HRT.
However, when past oral contraceptive use was considered, the researchers found that 81 per cent had taken contraceptives for at least a year. The median duration was 13 years.
After adjusting for confounding factors, including smoking, BP and obesity, the researchers found the use of oral contraceptives for 10 years was associated with a 17 per cent increased risk of plaque in the carotid artery and a 28 per cent increased risk of plaque in the femoral artery.
Looking at the prevalence of bilateral disease, the researchers found 10-year oral contraceptive use increased the odds for carotid plaque by 42 per cent and for femoral plaque 34 per cent.
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