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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 December 2, 2018

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

When giving a presentation or speech, you have to engage your audience effectively in order to truly get your point across. Unlike a written editorial or newsletter, your speech is fleeting; once you’ve said everything you set out to say, you don’t get a second chance to have your voice heard in that specific arena.

You need to make sure your audience hangs on to every word you say, from your introduction to your wrap-up. You can do so by:

1. Connecting them with each other

Picture your typical rock concert. What’s the first thing the singer says to the crowd after jumping out on stage? “Hello (insert city name here)!” Just acknowledging that he’s coherent enough to know where he is is enough for the audience to go wild and get into the show.

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It makes each individual feel as if they’re a part of something bigger. The same goes for any public speaking event. When an audience hears, “You’re all here because you care deeply about wildlife preservation,” it gives them a sense that they’re not just there to listen, but they’re there to connect with the like-minded people all around them.

2. Connect with their emotions

Speakers always try to get their audience emotionally involved in whatever topic they’re discussing. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, such as using statistics, stories, pictures or videos that really show the importance of the topic at hand.

For example, showing pictures of the aftermath of an accident related to drunk driving will certainly send a specific message to an audience of teenagers and young adults. While doing so might be emotionally nerve-racking to the crowd, it may be necessary to get your point across and engage them fully.

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3. Keep going back to the beginning

Revisit your theme throughout your presentation. Although you should give your audience the credit they deserve and know that they can follow along, linking back to your initial thesis can act as a subconscious reminder of why what you’re currently telling them is important.

On the other hand, if you simply mention your theme or the point of your speech at the beginning and never mention it again, it gives your audience the impression that it’s not really that important.

4. Link to your audience’s motivation

After you’ve acknowledged your audience’s common interests in being present, discuss their motivation for being there. Be specific. Using the previous example, if your audience clearly cares about wildlife preservation, discuss what can be done to help save endangered species’ from extinction.

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Don’t just give them cold, hard facts; use the facts to make a point that they can use to better themselves or the world in some way.

5. Entertain them

While not all speeches or presentations are meant to be entertaining in a comedic way, audiences will become thoroughly engaged in anecdotes that relate to the overall theme of the speech. We discussed appealing to emotions, and that’s exactly what a speaker sets out to do when he tells a story from his past or that of a well-known historical figure.

Speakers usually tell more than one story in order to show that the first one they told isn’t simply an anomaly, and that whatever outcome they’re attempting to prove will consistently reoccur, given certain circumstances.

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6. Appeal to loyalty

Just like the musician mentioning the town he’s playing in will get the audience ready to rock, speakers need to appeal to their audience’s loyalty to their country, company, product or cause. Show them how important it is that they’re present and listening to your speech by making your words hit home to each individual.

In doing so, the members of your audience will feel as if you’re speaking directly to them while you’re addressing the entire crowd.

7. Tell them the benefits of the presentation

Early on in your presentation, you should tell your audience exactly what they’ll learn, and exactly how they’ll learn it. Don’t expect them to listen if they don’t have clear-cut information to listen for. On the other hand, if they know what to listen for, they’ll be more apt to stay engaged throughout your entire presentation so they don’t miss anything.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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