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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 June 13, 2019

How to Quit Your Boring Life and Start Living an Interesting One

How to Quit Your Boring Life and Start Living an Interesting One

Think you have a boring life?

The definition of boring is dull or not interesting. Maybe you’ve been doing the same thing and living the same life for too long, or maybe your daily routine is limiting your growth and happiness. Whatever your reason is, the following list of 20 things can definitely make any day more interesting. Some of them are silly, while some are more meaningful, so hopefully just reading the list makes your life less boring and sparks your creativity.

Let’s dive in the list to quit your boring life and start living an interesting (and meaning) one!

1. Channel Your 7-Year-Old Self

What would he or she want to do right now? Color? Paint? Run around outside? Play dress up? Eat with your hands? Play that instrument hiding in the back of your closet that you haven’t touched in years?

Just because you’re a grown up doesn’t mean any of this stuff will be less enjoyable than you remember it. Give yourself permission to play.

2. Go Play with Kids

Speaking of little kids, if you have your own or access to any (in a non-creepy way, like they’re your niece or your best friend’s kid, you get the idea) go play with them!

They didn’t create an entire show called Kids Say The Darndest Things because kids aren’t hilarious. They also keep things so simple, and we can really stand to be reminded of this and stop allowing ourselves to get bogged down in boring details.

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3. Order a Hot Dog

While you’re eating it, Google: “What’s in a hot dog?” You decide whether or not you want to finish it.

4. For the Ladies: Wear Your Sexiest Lingerie Under Your Work Clothes

Your “little secret” will leave you feeling anything but boring all day!

5. Play Cell Phone Roulette

You’ll need at least one buddy for this. Scroll through the contacts in your phone, stop on a random one and call the person.

You could spark an incredible catch up session or be incredibly awkward. Neither are boring.

6. Fill out a Pack of Thank-You Cards

Give them to random people who probably don’t get thanked too often for doing what they do ever day.

Ideas: police officers, librarians, servers, baristas, cab drivers, sanitation workers, teachers, people behind any check out counter, receptionists, your friends, the guy at the falafel stand, etc.

7. Sign up for a Class in Something You’ve “Always Wanted to Do”, or Something That Makes You Really Uncomfortable

Ideas: pole dancing, salsa lessons, improv, pottery, cooking, knitting (yup, there are classes for this, too!), karate, boxing, something techy like the workshops they run in Apple stores, get Rosetta Stone and learn that language you’ve always wanted to speak, etc.

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What’s good about joining an interest class is that you will also meet new people!

8. Interview Your Grandparents About Their Lives

You can bet they’ve had some crazy experiences you probably never knew about.

9. Get up on Stage at an Open Mic Night

Whether you’re funny or not, get up on stage and just talk funny. And if you’re not, memorize a few of your favorite jokes and tell those!

10. Do Something for Someone Else That You Wish Someone Would Do for You

We all have a few ideas on this list. I promise you will feel amazing after and anything but bored.

11. Start a DIY Project in Your Home

It doesn’t have to be super complicated. If you need ideas, there’re plenty on Pinterest. Or you can also check out these 30 Awesome DIY Projects that You’ve Never Heard of.

12. Plan a Weekend Trip or an All-Out Vacation

This will give you something to look forward to.

Even if you don’t have the time or money to go on a vacation, plan for a staycation, which is same fun and relaxing!

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13. People Watch

Find a bench in a crowded area (centers of transportation like airports, bus stops and train stations are great for this!) and just observe.

People are infinitely interesting.

14. Eat Something You’ve Never Eaten Before

Bonus points if it’s a random fruit or veggie.

15. Dance

You can get your friends together for a night on the town or just pull up a video on YouTube and bust a move from your own living room.

If you’re feeling extra brave, you can even dance in public and get other people involved.

16. Go to YOUTUBE and Search “Funny Pets” or “Funny Babies”

This is also a great quickie ab workout as you will be laughing hysterically.

17. Pick up a Book and Start Reading

Check out the NY Times Best Sellers lists and grab a new book you can get lost in.

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18. Step Away from the Computer and Go Get Some Time with People You Care About in Real Life

Facebook stalking doesn’t count as real social interaction. You can even share this post with your friends and vote on which one you’d like to do together!

19. Check out a Museum You’ve Never Been to Before

OK, depending on your interests, this one might actually be boring. If you love learning, art or different cultures though, this one is for you!

20. Write a List of Things You Desire and Truly Want

This is a great way to help you figure out the real reason why you’re feeling bored about your life. Maybe you haven’t really done things that you truly enjoy? Maybe what you’ve wanted to do all the time has been left behind?

Think about the list of things you really want to do, and ask yourself why you aren’t doing these things (yet). Then start taking your first step to make what you want happen.

Now go make your life interesting and live your dream life!

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Featured photo credit: Kev Costello via unsplash.com

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