Saturday, December 16, 2017

Birth control pill risks needn't alarm, docs say

Report eyes potential offset to breast cancer dangers from contraceptives with hormones

Although women using modern-day hormonal contraceptives may be increasing their risk of breast cancer somewhat, the pill's protective qualities may offset that danger.

That conclusion, according to a recent story by Roni Caryn Rabin in The New York Times, comes from many doctors who prescribe contraceptives and claim "there's no cause for alarm — and no one should throw away her pills and risk an unwanted pregnancy."

Rabin's piece followed by only a few days her own story about a Danish study indicating that heightened risks — though small — still exist despite the lower estrogen content of newer pills and IUDs.

She'd initially cited a British study of more than 46,000 women "who were recruited in 1968, during the early days of the pill, and followed for up to 44 years," but has now walked back her position and quoted another study to the effect that "despite increases in breast and cervical cancers among those who used the pill, the effect on overall cancer rates was neutral because other cancers were reduced."  

Other studies, Rabin maintained, "have reached the same conclusion."
David J. Hunter
David J. Hunter, epidemiology and medicine prof at the University of Oxford in Britain, is quoted in her newer Times story as indicating contraceptive use might prevent more cancers "in aggregate, over a woman's lifetime" than it causes.

Hunter's comments were made in a commentary published in The New England Journal of Medicine. 

First among Rabin's suggestions for what women are to do with the new information is "to speak with your health care [provider, think] about your priorities and preferences, the stage of life you're in, your family plans and medical history, and find a doctor who will take time to listen to your concerns."

She then quotes Dr. Christine Dehlendorf, director of the program in women-centered contraception in the department of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, as saying, "We have to trust women to know what their preferences are, and what their abilities are to use certain methods, and to choose the methods that are the best choice for them."

More information on studies detailing risks of the disease can be found in "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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