Women who use hormonal birth control pills and other forms of contraceptives have a small but increased risk of developing breast cancer, a new study from Denmark has found — the latest in a string of dangerous side-effects researchers have discovered about the risks of hormonal contraceptives.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, followed 1.8 million Danish women for an average of more than 10 years. Of those women, researchers identified 11,517 cases of breast cancer. They then estimated that for every 7,690 women who use hormonal contraception for one year, one extra might develop breast cancer, or approximately 13 additional breast cancer cases for every 100,000 women. This risk increased with longer durations of use, but appears to go away within five years once birth control is discontinued.
The study, funded by pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk Foundation, has its limitations: according to the researchers, it didn’t account for factors such as breast-feeding, exercise, weight, obesity, and alcohol consumption, all of which research has found affect breast cancer in some way. While it also shows a relatively small percentage change, given the prevalence of breast cancer among women we cannot dismiss these results.
Breast Cancer Affects Millions of Women
Each year, more than 250,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than 40,500 will die from it. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in the United States. About one in every eight U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, making it the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women.
For years, women have known about a potential link between breast cancer and hormonal birth control. Conservatives, in particular, have tried raising concern about these ties for years. But they’re typically mocked and ignored. They’re written off as politically, religiously, or morally motivated, despite some legitimate research dating as far back as the 1980s, and more recent studies such as this one from the University of Michigan, showing breast cancer risk increases with hormonal exposure.
Because I’m covering this study and others like it for a conservative-leaning publication, some readers may conclude I’m part of a vast conspiracy to take birth control away from women due to some fundamental religious beliefs. They’re wrong. Some conservatives, like myself, simply want the truth about the drugs we’re encouraged to take, often daily, for decades at a time.
Birth Control Provider Planned Parenthood Remains Silent
No one talks about birth control and “reproductive rights” more than Planned Parenthood does. The organization markets itself as the go-to place for resources on reproductive health. Yet it continually ignores unflattering studies about one of its most prized products, which raises questions about whether women’s health or personal profit matters more to Planned Parenthood.
In the days since this latest study hit the pages of The New York Times, Planned Parenthood has issued tweet after tweet about the latest tax bill, claiming it would take away birth control from 13 million women. (In reality, it would merely allow employers with religious or moral objections to opt out of the Obama administration “birth control mandate” that forces employers such as Catholic nuns to pay for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs for their employees.)
But once again, they’re silent on another study showing serious risks of side effects involving a drug they prescribe and promote, despite claiming to be an “informed educator” for women’s reproductive health. Their silence is deafening, and exposes a political agenda that cares less about helping inform and educate women, and more about money and political influence. Their silence makes it temping to conclude that the nation’s largest abortion giant is far more concerned about its bottom line than the well-being of the women they market to.
Science Is Proving Us Right
It’s true, hormonal contraceptives are effective at their primary job, preventing pregnancies. Additionally, some studies suggest hormonal birth control may reduce the risks of ovarian, endometrial, and perhaps colorectal cancer. However, the estimated 140 million women worldwide who use hormonal contraception deserve to know the risks and side effects of these drugs so they can make informed decisions about what is best for their bodies.
Above all, this most recent study tells us far more research and education for consumers must be done. Until that happens, the best thing we can do is educate women about the information that is available. Groups such as Planned Parenthood would be wise to join in this effort, and use their platform to inform female followers about increased risks of breast cancer and other side effects from hormonal birth control use.
Anything less is not only a disservice to the women, it’s dangerous. With side effects as serious as depression, suicide, and breast cancer, lives are at stake. It’s time to stop mocking and ignoring conservatives for sounding these alarms, and instead, start listening. Study by study, science is proving us right.