Fact or Myth: Are Birth Control Pills Carcinogens?

This is a FACT.

More than 10 million American women use birth control pills. They are the go-to contraceptive not only for pregnancy prevention, but also for PMS symptoms, heavy periods, and acne. They are also a known carcinogen.

FACT: Birth control pills join tobacco, asbestos, plutonium, and diesel exhaust as a group 1 carcinogen according to the World Health Organization. This means birth control pills are “a known and probable cancer-causing agent to humans.”

birth control pillsThe Cancer Connection

Previous studies have suggested that birth control pills reduce risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer, but increase risk for breast, cervical, and liver cancer. The latest study published in the August 2014 edition of the journal Cancer Research confirms the finding of past birth control/cancer studies. Researchers studied 1,102 women with breast cancer, along with 21,952 controls, and found that recent oral contraceptive use—particularly high-dose estrogen birth control pills—increased breast cancer risk by more than 50%. Birth control pills with ethynodiol diacetate (a type of progestin) also raised breast cancer risk by more than double, while triphasic birth control pills (pills that deliver different hormone doses over three stages of the monthly cycle) more than tripled breast cancer risk! Not all birth control pills fared so badly, however. Low-dose estrogen birth control pills did not seem to increase breast cancer risk.

Blood Clot Dangers

Birth control pills can also increase your risk for blood clots, especially if you are a smoker, overweight, or older than 35. The link between birth control pills and increased blood clot risk is hard to measure. Denmark is the only country with a national registry of all Danish women who have suffered from a blood clot. Over a period of 10 years Danish women who used birth control pills were twice as likely to have a blood clot as non-birth-control users.

Newer versions of birth control pills carry an increased risk of blood clotting in the form of a laboratory-made progesterone called drospirenone (DRSP). A 2012 Kaiser Permanente study showed that birth control pills containing DRSP increased the risk of hospitalization from blood clots by 77% and doubled the risk for blocked arteries compared to low-dose estrogen pills. Estrogen-progestin pills have also been linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Vitamin and Libido Depletion

Across the board, birth control pills deplete your body’s supply of B vitamins, particularly vitamin B9, or folic acid. B vitamins are necessary for stress management, optimal memory function, healthy heart function, and overall longevity and wellness. Birth control pills also inhibit the midcycle testosterone surge, which can lower libido significantly.

Delayed Fertility

Your period isn’t a curse; it’s a monthly blessing, and a sign that your hormones are in balance and your hypothalamus is functioning properly. Birth control pills disrupt your monthly cycle, and while on them you don’t have “real” periods. Perhaps you are masking the symptoms of acne or migraines, but you aren’t treating the root cause of the problem. And when you go off birth control pills, it takes your body an extra long time to heal and prepare for fertility.