Birth Control Linked To Breast Cancer
This is important for any woman on or considering birth control.
D.G. Sciortino

A recent Danish study found that hormones released by birth control pills or hormonal contraceptive devices present a small yet significant increase in the risk for breast cancer, the New York Times reports.

The study found that hormonal contraceptive caused an additional 13 cases of breast cancer per 100,000 women.

“It’s small but it’s measurable, and if you add up all the millions of women taking the pill, it is a significant public health concern,” said Oncologist Dr. Marisa Weiss, founder of the website breastcancer.org.

Which means that for every 100,000 women who use birth control, 68 women will get breast cancer compared to 55 women who aren’t birth control users.

Flickr/Birth Control Pills Caution
Flickr/Birth Control Pills Caution

The study monitored 1.8 million women for about 10 years. The study suggests that newer contraceptives that have lower doses of estrogen don’t reduce the increased risk for breast cancer, unlike previously believed.

The research suggests that the progestin that is used in many birth controls is what maybe raising the risk of breast cancer.

“This is an important study because we had no idea how the modern day pills compared to the old-fashioned pills in terms of breast cancer risk, and we didn’t know anything about I.U.D.’s,” Weiss said. “Gynecologists just assumed that a lower dose of hormone meant a lower risk of cancer. But the same elevated risk is there.”

Weiss suggests that older women use hormone-free birth control like a diaphragm, and I.U.D. that doesn’t release hormones, or condoms.

New York Times
New York Times

The New York Times also reported in a later article that a 1968 British study of more than 46,000 women suggested that birth controls may reduce the risk of other types of cancers.

Flickr/Carlos Camacho
Flickr/Carlos Camacho

“In aggregate, over a woman’s lifetime contraceptive use might prevent more cancers” than it causes professor of epidemiology and medicine at the University of Oxford in Britains David J. Hunter said. “There is good data to show that five or more years of oral contraceptive use substantially reduces ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer risk, and may reduce colorectal cancer. And the protection persists for 10 or 20 years after cessation.”

Other experts insisted that results of the Danish study “are not a cause for alarm.”

“It’s really problematic to look at one outcome in isolation,” said Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, a professor of women’s health at Harvard Medical School and chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Hormonal contraception has a complex matrix of benefits and risks, and you need to look at the overall pattern.”

We’re not doctors or scientists so you should probably ask your own doctor more about this!

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