Too Many Birth Control Pills Increase Breast Cancer Risk

A stupendous number of women around the world use contraceptive pills, most commonly known as birth control pills, to have sex without the risk of getting pregnant, or to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

Too Many Birth Control Pills Increase Breast Cancer RiskSome previously published population studies have linked use of oral contraceptives to the risk of developing cancers of breast, cervical, and liver.

Scientists from the University of Michigan now solidify that link and suggest that too many contraceptive pills can increase the risk of breast cancer more than previously feared.

According to the researchers, some commonly prescribed birth control pills may quadruple levels of synthetic estrogen and progesterone hormones, both of which are believed to play a key role in stimulating the breast cancers to grow. Evidently, some breast cancer patients are prescribed hormone therapy to block their effects on cancer cells.

The current study results showed that women who took birth control pills had much higher levels of hormones in their blood samples than those who did not use oral contraceptives.

In the research, investigators examined seven commonly prescribed oral contraceptives and four of those formulations were found to increase the levels of progestin, a synthetic version of the progesterone hormone, by fourfold. Further investigation showed 40 percent higher exposure to ethinyl estradiol, a synthetic version of estrogen.

Progesterone and oestrogen hormones are both secreted in the ovaries and the levels of both hormones vary naturally during the women’s menstrual cycle. The contraceptive pills replace these naturally produced d\female sex hormones with synthetic versions.

For the study, the researchers analysed data from 12 existing studies that examined the amount of female sex hormones during the menstrual cycle in women who don’t use oral contraceptives.

The total levels of progesterone and oestrogen were then compared with the total levels of their synthetic versions- progestin and estradiol- in women taking one of the popular birth control pills for 28 days.

“That this hasn’t been answered is amazing, given that we already know that there’s a correlation between hormonal exposure and breast cancer risk,” said study’s lead author Beverly Strassmann, who is a human evolutionary biologist.

Based on their findings, Strassmann and her team emphasise that birth control pills are extremely helpful when it comes to having safe sex and avoiding unwanted pregnancy, but at the same time call for pharmaceutical companies to design oral contraceptives in a way that they do not contribute to the risk of breast cancer.

“Not enough has changed over the generations of these drugs and given how many people take hormonal birth control worldwide – millions – the pharmaceutical industry shouldn’t rest on its laurels,” she said.

Cancer Research UK estimates that as little as one percent of breast cancers in women are due to oral contraceptive use.

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