October was breast cancer awareness month. Were you aware that the pill (a steroid hormone that 90% of women take or have taken) is linked to a significant increase in breast cancer?
In 2005, the pill was labeled by the World Health Organization as a class 1 carcinogen. Birth control pills have been linked to as much as a 30% increase in breast cancer.
Studies have found specifically that there is more risk for the following groups:
- Women who have had a first degree relative with breast cancer
- Women who have had “long term” pill use under the age of 25
- Women who use the pill before having a child (44% increase)
- Women who use higher doses of hormones
These risks are often downplayed. Articles commonly encourage women to weigh the “pros and cons” of taking the pill. What would that theoretical pro/con list look like?
Pro: Low risk of pregnancy
Con: Increasing risk of breast cancer
How many women are even aware that the pill could cause them to develop breast cancer? The pill also increases the risk of cervical and liver cancer. Women are developing these cancers not as side-effects, but because, as the World Health Organization clearly states, the pill is a class 1 carcinogen.
How many women are made aware of other reliable and safer alternatives?
While it’s important to be aware of breast cancer, it’s also important to be informed. It’s time to take the “risk of cancer” out of the fine print. Women should know that the pill they are ingesting every day is raising their risk of breast cancer.
Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Breast cancer and hormonal contraceptives: collaborative reanalysis of individual data on 53,297 women with breast cancer and 100,239 women without breast cancer from 54 epidemiological studies. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Lancet. 347:1713-27, 1996. –
Gierisch JM, Coeytaux RR, Urrutia RP, et al. Oral contraceptive use and risk of breast, cervical, colorectal, and endometrial cancers: a systematic review. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 22(11):1931-43, 2013.
Kahlenborn, C.M. (2006), Oral Contractive Use as a Risk Factor for Pre-Menopausal Breast Cancer Meta Analysis. Mayo Clinci Proceedings, 81 (10), 1290-302
World Health Organilization (2005, July 29). International Agency for Research on Cancer.