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Contraceptive use linked to prostate cancer

Posted on 15 November 2011 by admin

prostate_contraceptionAs if the risks to women that contraceptive pills present were not enough, a study from researchers at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto shows a link between use of the birth control pill and the incidence of prostate cancer.

Researchers  studied rates of the disease in countries around the world in 2007, and cross-referenced those numbers with data on contraceptive use in the same year.

Unlike all other methods of contraception, use of the pill “was significantly associated” with prostate cancer incidence in countries worldwide. Researchers found “a strong correlation” between birth control use and prostate cancer.

“Prostate cancer mortality was also associated with oral contraceptive use when examined globally,” says the study, which was published Monday in the BMJ Open journal. “The correlation to oral contraceptive use was independent of GDP as a measure of a country’s wealth, and strongest in Europe.”

Although the study doesn’t determine exactly why the link between the two seemingly unrelated health issues exists, the authors do have a few theories.

A “plausible” explanation is the birth control pill’s potential impact on the environment. Modern birth control pills can act as endocrine-disturbing compounds — chemicals that have the potential to alter the normal functioning of the body’s system of hormone-secreting glands — because they often contain high doses of ethinyloestradiol, a type of estrogen, that is excreted in urine in its original potency.

“This can then end up either in the drinking water supply or passed up the food chain,” the study says. “Oral contraceptives were made publicly available in the 1960s, and have been widely used since the 1980s, hence the exposure to these substances, even in small quantities, may be chronic enough (20-30 years) to have a clinically significant effect.”

The study authors say more research is needed to examine this phenomenon further.


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