A New Study Shows that Birth Control Pills Can Reduce Cancer Risk
The use of birth control pills is prevalent in the U.S. and at least 11 million women around the country rely on this effective and affordable contraception method. But is this popular pill a health hazard for women? A few months ago, a concerning study showed that the use of birth control medication may increase the risk of certain diseases but researchers are now saying that these pills could actually protect women from various types of cancers.
Birth Control Pills Reduce Cancer Risk
Finally, the good news that women around the world have been waiting for: contraceptive pills can actually protect you from various cancers including endometrial and ovarian cancer, a new study says.
The findings of the research were first published in JAMA Oncology where researchers explained how they tested various oral contraceptives to find out their effects on the hormone level in female body. What they found was that the chemical composition of birth control pills lowered the risk of certain cancers. In addition to these results, the researchers also found that the longer these oral contraceptives were used by women, the lower the risk of each cancer became.
Participants who had been taking the birth control pill regularly for more than 10 years benefited from a 40% decrease in the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers whereas the risk was reduced by 34% in women who had only used it for a year or less in comparison with those who didn’t use any oral contraceptives.
Other Lifestyle Factors Can Affect the Way Contraceptive Pill Works
Previous researches have already studied the link between oral contraceptives and risk of various cancers and although the results of the new study are in line with the others, it digs deeper into discovering how the cancer risk in women who use oral contraceptives can differ depending on their risk factor. Hence, the researchers studied other aspects of the participants’ lifestyle which might affect the cancer risk such as their physical health, smoking habits, diet and activity levels.
The scientists discovered that the lifestyle factors greatly affected the ability of birth control pills in reducing the cancer risk. For instance, participants who exercised regularly and didn’t have any unhealthy lifestyle habits were the ones who showed little to no change in cancer risk despite having used the contraceptive pill for a long time. In contrast, women who were overweight, heavy smokers or the least physically active were the ones who reaped the maximum benefits of using the pill.
More Effective For Those With Greater Cancer Risk
Although the link between participants’ lifestyle and the effect on cancer risk isn’t clear yet, scientists have speculated that certain factors such as smoking or obesity can change women’s hormonal activity and thereby affect the way a contraceptive pill acts inside the body. Unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, physical inactivity and obesity are known for increasing the risk of certain diseases and cancers which is probably why these participants experienced a greater change in their risk of certain cancers.
The author of the study explained that even though women with different lifestyles showed varying levels of cancer risks, the effect of contraceptive pills in reducing ovarian cancer was universal; which means that no matter how healthy our unhealthy your lifestyle may be, if ovarian cancer runs within your family, using the contraceptive pill can significantly reduce the risk of the disease. In other words, all women can benefit from using the pill.
The risk of endometrial cancer in these participants also depended on their lifestyles. Obese women who had used the pill for 10 years or more showed a greater decrease in cancer risk than those who were of healthy weight. Previous studies showed that the use of oral contraceptives has been linked to cancer growth due to an increase in the hormones progestin and estrogen but this recent study showed less conclusive results in confirming the risk. This was probably due to the fact that most participants in the study had already reached menopause and were no longer using the contraceptive pills.
Despite the compelling results, doctors do not recommend the use of contraceptive pills as an anti-cancer medication without carefully evaluating their cancer risk factor and discussing the pros and cons of using the pill with a physician.
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