Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The little cancer-causing Pill

A woman wrote on Monday distraught over the fact that her friend is taking the birth control pill for the sake of avoiding ovarian cancer, which runs in her family. The woman wanted to know whether this was "okay" for her friend to do because she was married. There are a few issues at bay here beyond the fact that she is effectively destroying her fertility for the sake of avoiding cancer.

First of all, I instructed her that her friend ought to abstain completely because of the abortifacient factor of chemical contraceptives. In her case, the first desire is not to destroy her fertility, but to avoid cancer, and therefore taking the Pill would be okay. Destroying one's fertility in this case would only be an undesired side effect. But, because the Pill has been known to allow "break through pregnancy," which results in early abortion, she would be advised to abstain completely in order to avoid the chance of aborting one of her children.

However, I had one more issue with this case. The young woman is taking the Pill for the sake of avoiding cancer. Luckily, at the end of July, the International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a press release outlining their research which showed that while the Pill does decrease the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer, it has been raised to the heights of "carcinogenic to humans," for the fact that it increases the risk of breast, cervix and liver cancer. Chemical contraceptives were previously considered "probably carcinogenic to humans."

It does not seem logical that any woman would place her body at risk for these deadly cancers, even if for the sake of reducing the risk of other cancers. Meanwhile, in the process a woman on the Pill is destroying her fertility. It has been proven that one of the best ways to prevent many common cancers in women is to conceive and bear a child. This is the body's natural means of protecting itself from cancer.

In 2001, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published findings that demonstrated the link between childbirth and a decrease risk of breast cancer. "There is significant evidence that the timing of normal developmental events like menarche, menopause, and age of first parity have a significant impact on an individual's susceptibility to breast cancer."

Those interested in the medical jargon and technicalities of the study may read the article on the PNAS website.

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