Study Seeks Link Between Birth Control Pills, Prostate Cancer

A new study is looking at potential links between birth control pills taken by women and the incidence of prostate cancer in men.

It seems that women’s use of birth control pills may be linked to increased prostate cancer rates in men, according to a just-published study in BMJ Open, reports ABC News. The research revealed that those countries with the greatest number of women taking oral birth control pills were also likelier to see an increased number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer, said ABC News. According to the research, the study is the first-of-its-kind to suggest a possible link between oral birth control pills and prostate cancer, according to ABC News.

Although what causes the link remains unknown, the researchers said that one potential explanation could be the release of the female hormone estrogen in urine that is recycled through water supplies, ABC News explained. “There’s reason to suggest there’s an environmental component [to prostate cancer] and not solely genetic,” said Dr. Neil Fleshner, head of urology at the University Health Network in Ontario and co-author of the study, wrote ABC News.

Earlier studies have suggested that chemicals such as pesticides and medicines that contaminate water supplies are at the root of increased endocrine-related diseases that can be as serious as cancer and early puberty onset, noted ABC News.

Dr. Fleshner said that the research findings present more questions than answers and that the study hypothesis is speculative, but the research does point to collaborative increases between prostate cancer and birth control. For instance, said ABC News, men who live in North America and Europe tend to be at increased risks for prostate cancer and those continents also tend to have increased use of birth control pills.

The team reviewed other birth control methods, including intrauterine device (IUD), condoms, and vaginal barriers. ABC News reported that no link was found to prostate cancer when looked against areas in which the pill was more popular. “This is just a hypothesis-generating idea,” said Fleshner, added ABC News.

Oral birth control has been making news in the United States. We recently wrote that another study—one of several separate studies—confirmed that birth controls pills like Yaz and Yasmin are likelier to cause blood clots versus other oral contraceptives. The latest study, which involved 330,000 Israeli women, found that women who took pills made with drospirenone, including Yaz or Yasmin, faced a 43-to-65 percent higher risk of suffering a type of blood clot called venous thromboembolism (VTE).

A U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) study found that women taking Yaz, Yasmin, and similar new-generation birth control pills made with drospirenone may have a 75 percent greater chance of experiencing a VTE compared to women on other pills. The FDA study involved an examination of health records belonging to 800,000 American women using some sort of birth control

The results of the FDA study were released just days after a publication of a Danish study which found that oral contraceptives with new-generation progestins, including drospirenone, doubled the risk of VTE versus pills made with an older form of progestin called levonorgestral. Not all studies have found increased risks with drospirenone. A recent Washington Post report said two studies published in 2007, conducted as part of the FDA’s and European regulators’ post-marketing requirements, did not find a difference in blood clotting between drospirenone and levonorgestral.

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