Did you know that birth control pills have been linked to causing breast cancer in women? This connection particularly applies to younger women. Researchers say many young women have been taking it without knowing about its hidden side effect.
The birth control pill is said to be possibly increasing the rates of cancer in women who are taking it. And most of these younger consumers have no idea about this side effect.
“A new statistical analysis finds that women under age 50 who were diagnosed with breast cancer were also more likely to have recently been on some versions of the Pill. The increased cancer risk still translates to less than a one percent chance of developing breast cancer for most younger women, researchers emphasize, so the results should not outweigh the many benefits of taking oral contraceptives,” according to Reuters.
Despite the increased risk of breast cancer associated with the pill, experts have not been able to encourage regulators to take it off the market. But consumers can be their own best advocates by getting educated about the dangers associated with the pill and looking for alternatives.
How do the pills act to increase breast cancer rates? “Some past research suggests that the hormones in birth control pills could ‘feed’ hormone-sensitive tumors and thereby raise younger women’s risk of a breast cancer diagnosis, or of developing more aggressive cancers.”
The study’s lead author told Reuters that the pill will remain on the market for a long time. But that women should consider the risk it poses to their particular bodies, especially if they have a genetic predisposition to breast cancer.
How was the study conducted?
“To examine the risk in a group of women more recently on birth control pills, Beaber’s team analyzed data from a large healthcare delivery system, tracking birth control pill prescriptions and breast cancer diagnoses. The researchers compared 1,102 women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer between 1990 and 2009 with 21,952 women without cancer who were of similar age. Women who had taken oral contraception during the past year, according to pharmacy records, were more likely to be in the cancer group than those who had never taken birth control pills or who had taken them more than a year prior. Contraceptives with higher doses of estrogen or progestin were more strongly associated with increased cancer risk,” according to Reuters.
Women who had been taking the high estrogen pills were almost three times as likely as women who had not taken the pills of developing cancer. In particular, these women were more likely to develop hormonal cancers. Women in the group that developed cancer also had a higher genetic predisposition for cancer, which is why experts suggest that women consider their family history before opting for the pill.
The study’s author told Reuters, “Use of formulations with high dose estrogen, ethynodiol diacetate (synthetic progestin), and specific triphasic oral contraceptives in the past year was associated with an increased breast cancer risk in our study, while other formulations, including low dose estrogen oral contraceptives, did not appear to be associated with an elevated risk.”
Despite the various studies that show a link between the pill and breast cancer there are still those experts who condone the pill and say it is perfectly safe. Women can look at research from both sides of the spectrum before making a decision.
Reuters offers statistics to show the difference between women who took the pill and those who did not,
“Nine percent of the comparison group had filled prescriptions for oral contraceptives, compared to 13 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer, according to pharmaceutical records. The authors calculate that taking oral contraceptives is therefore associated with a 50 percent increase in risk of breast cancer for women like those in the study, who were between ages 20 and 49. Less than one percent of women will get breast cancer before age 40, according to the American Cancer Society, and even with a 50 percent relative increase that number would still be under one percent.”
They reported, “A new statistical analysis finds that women under age 50 who were diagnosed with breast cancer were also more likely to have recently been on some versions of the Pill. The increased cancer risk still translates to less than a one percent chance of developing breast cancer for most younger women.”
The author and her team did say that there are some benefits to the pill and that overall breast cancer is rare in younger women. Some of the benefits include: lowers risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers, colorectal cancers, and helps maintain bone density. But if women can find a better alternative then it would be better in the long run to opt for that to avoid all risks. Many doctors do not mention (when prescribing it to their patients) the fact that there has been a connection found between the pill and breast cancer. Some physicians are still genuine proponents of the pill. And the pill will not be taken off the market, so it is up to consumers to be their own best advocate. This particularly applies to women who have a genetic predisposition to breast cancer.