NEW research finds certain birth control pills increase risk of breast cancer by up to 30 percent
(NaturalHealth365) According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly two-thirds of all American girls and women currently use contraception, and the second most common method of contraception is the birth control pill.
Of course, preventing unintended pregnancies isn’t the only reason women and girls are prescribed oral contraceptive pills. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) notes that birth control pills are often prescribed to treat heavy, painful, and/or irregular periods, manage endometriosis, and improve issues like hair loss, excess hair growth, acne, and severe symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). But recent research prompts an important question: are the benefits of birth control pills really worth the risk for some women?
New study from United Kingdom reveals 30% increased risk of breast cancer associated with birth control pill
A group of researchers at Oxford University in the United Kingdom recently published the results of their case-control study and meta-analysis, which looked at the effects of combined (estrogen-progesterone) and progesterone-only pills on a woman’s breast cancer risk.
Their study, published in March 2023 in PLOS Medicine, determined that women who use oral contraceptives have a 20 to 30 percent increased risk of breast cancer compared to women who don’t.
This 30% increased risk is relative. Fortunately, the absolute excess risk isn’t quite as alarming. By combining their data with research from prior studies, the authors found that the absolute excess risk of developing breast cancer over a 15-year period was 8 per 100,000 among women who used the pill between ages 16 to 20 (an incidence of 0.093% compared to 0.084% in non-pill users), and 265 per 100,000 among women who used the pill between ages 35 to 39 (an incidence of 2.2% compared to 2.0% in non-pill users).
Of course, even though the absolute risk appears to be small, this still means some women in this country will someday receive a breast cancer diagnosis likely because of their prior oral contraceptive use – a harsh reality for many families.
But the authors add that the breast cancer risk associated with birth control pills “must be viewed in the context of the well-established benefits of contraceptive use in women’s reproductive years,” while pointing out that the risk of breast cancer also increases with age.
Plus, a birth control pill user’s excess risk of breast cancer, however small, gradually declines once she stops taking the drug.
Here are some other potential risks and side effects of birth control pills you should know
If you’re a woman or if you have a daughter who has been on the pill, ask yourself: did the prescribing physician go over the potential adverse effects with you in detail first? As with any medication or medical intervention, you deserve to be fully informed so you can decide if said intervention is right for you or your child.
In case you were wondering, here are just some of the known adverse effects and risk factors associated with oral contraceptives, according to the National Library of Medicine:
- Breakthrough bleeding
- Abdominal cramping
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Decreased sex drive
- Breast tenderness
- Increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and venous thrombotic events
- Decreased acquisition of bone mineral density
- Impaired glucose metabolism (particularly during the first six months of use)
Of course, it’s important to remember that the specific risks of being on the pill vary depending on factors like the health status of the individual (e.g., whether she smokes or has chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure) and the type of pill taken.
Also, you should know that it might not all be bad when it comes to oral contraceptives. The ASRM claims that girls and women “who have used birth control pills have been found to have fewer cases of anemia (low red blood cells), ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer. These beneficial effects occur because the birth control pill works by decreasing the number of ovulations, amount of menstrual blood flow, and frequency of periods.”
Plus, when birth control pills are used “consistently and correctly every time,” the effectiveness rate is about 99% (this means fewer than one out of 100 women will become pregnant in the first year of “perfect use”). That’s slightly better than condoms – although condoms protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and birth control pills don’t. Moreover, human error is an important factor that can bring the effectiveness of birth control pills down to about 91% (which means about nine women in 100 will become pregnant in the first year of “typical use”).
For women interested in exploring alternative options, one Pharma-free method of birth control is known as fertility awareness or natural family planning. This method teaches you to know when you are or aren’t fertile depending on where you are in your cycle, so you can know when (or when not) to have intercourse, depending on your family planning goals.
When done correctly, natural family planning can be as equally effective as birth control pills – minus all the unpleasant side effects and potential health risks, of course! But again, human error must be taken into account; according to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, the effectiveness of natural planning can fall to only 75% due to mistakes.
The bottom line: As always, be as informed as possible when deciding when and whether to take a drug, and speak to a trusted physician who can help you determine whether the benefits of a particular drug or intervention outweigh the potential risks for you.
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