Birth Control Pills Linked to Rare Brain Cancer

But read this before you panic. The benefits of the pill may still greatly outweigh the risks.

January 23, 2015
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The importance of safe sex isn't lost on us, but shouldn't safe sex be, well, safe? Using hormonal contraceptives, including oral contraceptives, for more than five years is associated with an increased risk of a rare brain tumor, glioma of the brain, according to research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Now, before we sound the alarm, the researchers say that hormonal birth control still plays an important role in women's health, adding that these findings alone aren't enough to stop using hormonal birth control.

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"While we found a statistically significant association between hormonal contraceptive use and glioma risk, a risk-benefit evaluation would still favor the use of hormonal contraceptives in eligible users," says research leader David Gaist, MD, PhD, of the Odense University Hospital and University of Southern Denmark.

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Additionally, we'd like to point out that, while statistically significant, the findings were correlational, so it's completely possible that a different factor was responsible for the link. This means that additional research is necessary to continue testing the safety of these drugs moving forward.

The researchers also point out that this brain tumor is an incredibly rare condition, even if hormonal contraception slightly increases the risk for women. "In a population of women in the reproductive age, including those who use hormonal contraceptives, you would anticipate seeing 5 in 100,000 people develop a glioma annually, according to the nationwide Danish Cancer Registry," says Dr. Gaist.

In the meantime, women who are still concerned can always consider non-hormonal forms of birth control. If you don't have a medical necessity for being on a hormonal birth control, consider making the switch to condoms. Sir Richard's makes condoms without glycerin, parabens, or spermicide. Or consider asking your doctor about a non-hormonal interuterine device (IUD).

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