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Do Oral Contraceptives Disrupt Your Hormonal Balance And Lead To Cancer?

Do Oral Contraceptives Disrupt Your Hormonal Balance And Lead To Cancer?

Oral contraceptive pills have been an effective form of birth control since the 1960s in the US. In order to prevent pregnancy, most oral contraceptive pills contain synthetic versions of the female hormones estrogen, progesterone, and, progestin. Progesterone and estrogen have been associated with some types of cancers [1].

The association between these hormones and cancer can be confusing and intimidating, especially if you are taking or planning to take oral contraceptive pills. Trying to find information about the link can be just as confusing. While some experts say that the benefits of the pill are greater than the risks, others claim just the opposite. So, which is the truth?

Does taking an oral contraceptive increase your risk for cancer? The answer is: maybe. Although the research is not conclusive, most studies have found that oral contraceptive use has two benefits [2]. It reduces the risk for endometrial and ovarian cancer. And it increases the risk for breast, liver, and cervical cancer.

Breast cancer and oral contraceptive use

A study published in 1996 took a look at 53 epidemiological studies in order to understand the risks of developing breast cancer [3]. The results suggested that women taking an oral contraceptive had a small increase in risk. This continued to be true for the first 10 years after a woman decided to stop taking the pill. The second conclusion was that the risk diminished 10 years after stopping use.

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Another study found that only high-dose estrogen pills were associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer [4]. Most women today take an oral contraceptive with a low dose of estrogen. Other factors associated with breast cancer include: family history of the disease, previous biopsies with abnormal cells, young age at first menstruation, older age with first pregnancy, and having no children [5].

Liver cancer and oral contraceptive use

Oral contraceptive use has been linked to an increased risk for hepatocellular adenomas, a large, but non-cancerous, tumor [6]. It is, however, highly likely to rupture and has a 20% to 40% chance of bleeding. When women have these tumors, the risk of them becoming cancerous is only 4% [7].

The research results on oral contraceptive use and cancerous liver tumors is unclear. Some studies indicate that there is a link between the two, while others suggest there is not.

Cervical cancer and oral contraceptive use

Using birth control pills for longer than five years could cause an increased risk for cervical cancer [8]. That risk increases with long-term use and is believed to be three times higher than in women who have never taken the pill. The risk does, however, decrease once the woman no longer takes the oral contraceptive.

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An oral contraceptive does not work alone to cause cervical cancer. The vast majority of cervical cancers are caused by the presence of the human papilloma virus (HPV). Some researchers believe the hormones in the pill may change cells located in the cervix, making them more likely to be infected by HPV [9]. The birth control pill might also assist an HPV infection to develop cancer.

Endometrial and ovarian cancer

Hormonal birth control has been linked to decreased risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers [10]. Several studies of women around the world have found that for every five years a woman takes an oral contraceptive, her risk of developing endometrial cancer is reduced by 24%. This protection continued for approximately 30 years and was not diminished after stopping oral contraceptive use.

Additionally, taking an oral contraceptive results in anovulation [11], which is when ovulation does not happen. This has also been linked to reduced risk of ovarian cancer. Many medical professionals consider this to be one of the biggest unexpected benefits of oral contraceptives.

Now what?

Now that you know the potential link between using an oral contraceptive and developing cancer, it’s a good idea to consider all of your family planning options. Discuss with your doctor any concerns you may have. It’s important for you to determine if the benefits of hormonal birth control pills outweigh the risks.

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If you decide that you’re uncomfortable with the idea of taking an oral contraceptive, there are other contraceptive methods available. Other forms of birth control include:

Male Condom

This is a low cost, widely available alternative to hormonal birth control pills. It is 82% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Contraceptive Sponge

The sponge costs between $4 and $6 and is available in most pharmacies. It contains spermicide and is between 76% and 88% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)

A doctor places the IUD inside your uterus. It remains in place for several years and prevents fertilized eggs from implanting in your uterus. It can be expensive depending on your insurance coverage and is 99% effective.

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There are many other options available. Talk to your doctor to figure out which one is best for you.

Featured photo credit: GabiSanda via pixabay.com

Reference

More by this author

Amber Pariona

EFL Teacher, Lifehack Writer, English/Spanish Translator, MPA

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Last Updated on February 13, 2019

10 Things Happy People Do Differently

10 Things Happy People Do Differently

Think being happy is something that happens as a result of luck, circumstance, having money, etc.? Think again.

Happiness is a mindset. And if you’re looking to improve your ability to find happiness, then check out these 10 things happy people do differently.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. -Dalai Lama

1. Happy people find balance in their lives.

Folks who are happy have this in common: they’re content with what they have, and don’t waste a whole lot of time worrying and stressing over things they don’t. Unhappy people do the opposite: they spend too much time thinking about what they don’t have. Happy people lead balanced lives. This means they make time for all the things that are important to them, whether it’s family, friends, career, health, religion, etc.

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2. Happy people abide by the golden rule.

You know that saying you heard when you were a kid, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Well, happy people truly embody this principle. They treat others with respect. They’re sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of other people. They’re compassionate. And they get treated this way (most of the time) in return.

3. Happy people don’t sweat the small stuff.

One of the biggest things happy people do differently compared to unhappy people is they let stuff go. Bad things happen to good people sometimes. Happy people realize this, are able to take things in stride, and move on. Unhappy people tend to dwell on minor inconveniences and issues, which can perpetuate feelings of sadness, guilt, resentment, greed, and anger.

4. Happy people take responsibility for their actions.

Happy people aren’t perfect, and they’re well aware of that. When they screw up, they admit it. They recognize their faults and work to improve on them. Unhappy people tend to blame others and always find an excuse why things aren’t going their way. Happy people, on the other hand, live by the mantra:

“There are two types of people in the world: those that do and those that make excuses why they don’t.”

5. Happy people surround themselves with other happy people.

happiness surrounding

    One defining characteristic of happy people is they tend to hang out with other happy people. Misery loves company, and unhappy people gravitate toward others who share their negative sentiments. If you’re struggling with a bout of sadness, depression, worry, or anger, spend more time with your happiest friends or family members. Chances are, you’ll find that their positive attitude rubs off on you.

    6. Happy people are honest with themselves and others.

    People who are happy often exhibit the virtues of honesty and trustworthiness. They would rather give you candid feedback, even when the truth hurts, and they expect the same in return. Happy people respect people who give them an honest opinion.

    7. Happy people show signs of happiness.

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    smile

      This one may sound obvious but it’s a key differentiator between happy and unhappy people. Think about your happiest friends. Chances are, the mental image you form is of them smiling, laughing, and appearing genuinely happy. On the flip side, those who aren’t happy tend to look the part. Their posture may be slouched and you may perceive a lack of confidence.

      8. Happy people are passionate.

      Another thing happy people have in common is their ability to find their passions in life and pursue those passions to the fullest. Happy people have found what they’re looking for, and they spend their time doing what they love.

      9. Happy people see challenges as opportunities.

      Folks who are happy accept challenges and use them as opportunities to learn and grow. They turn negatives into positives and make the best out of seemingly bad situations. They don’t dwell on things that are out of their control; rather, they seek solutions and creative ways of overcoming obstacles.

      10. Happy people live in the present.

      While unhappy people tend to dwell on the past and worry about the future, happy people live in the moment. They are grateful for “the now” and focus their efforts on living life to the fullest in the present. Their philosophy is:

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      There’s a reason it’s called “the present.” Because life is a gift.

      So if you’d like to bring a little more happiness into your life, think about the 10 principles above and how you can use them to make yourself better.

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