Birth control pill linked to breast cancer

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Cancer is one of the diseases people fear the most and it’s estimated that 38.5 per cent of men and women will be diagnosed at some point in their lives.

Experts from the University of Michigan wanted to find out how much the oral contraception affects hormone levels in women, because certain hormones increase the chance of breast cancer.

The team, led by professor Beverly Strassmann, looked at 12 previous studies which measured the amount of hormones oestrogen and progesterone over the menstrual cycle in women who were not taking the pill. The two hormones are produced by the ovaries, but the pill replaces these naturally released ones with synthetic versions.

This information was then compared to women taking one of seven common birth control pills.

It was found that four of the oral contraception pills more than quadrupled the levels of progestin, the synthetic version of progesterone.

And one pill raised exposure to ethinyl estradiol, a synthetic oestrogen, by 40 per cent. Ethinyl estradiol has been linked to breast cancer.

Professor Strassmann pointed out that the aim of her study wasn’t to scare people off of taking the pill, but rather change the way the birth control is designed to minimise the risk of 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 commented.

“It is critically important to know whether hormonal contraception further exacerbates (the) risk (of cancer).”

Findings were published in the journal Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health.

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