Birth Control Pills Have Prevented 400,000 Cancers, Researchers Say

TUESDAY, Aug. 4, 2015 (HealthDay News) — A new study suggests that birth control pills may also help shield women from uterine cancer.

Taking birth control pills, even for just a few years, offers significant long-term protection against uterine cancer, also known as endometrial cancer, the British researchers said. And the longer a women takes birth control pills, the greater her reduction in risk for the disease, concluded the team led by Valerie Beral of the University of Oxford.

In fact, they estimated that over the past 50 years, birth control pills have prevented about 400,000 cases of endometrial cancer among women before age 75 in wealthy nations, including about 200,000 between 2005 and 2014 alone.

“The strong protective effect of oral contraceptives against endometrial cancer — which persists for decades after stopping the pill — means that women who use it when they are in their 20s or even younger continue to benefit into their 50s and older, when cancer becomes more common,” Beral said in a news release from the journal The Lancet Oncology. The study was published in the journal Aug. 4.

As part of their research, Beral’s team analyzed data from 36 studies involving a total of more than 27,000 women with uterine cancer around the world.

While the study couldn’t prove cause-and-effect, the results show that every five years of birth control pill use cut the odds of uterine cancer by about one-quarter.

In high-income nations, 10 years of birth control pill use lowered the risk of developing the disease before age 75 from 2.3 to 1.3 cases per 100 users, the study found.

“Previous research has shown that the pill also protects against ovarian cancer,” Beral noted. “People used to worry that the pill might cause cancer, but in the long term the pill reduces the risk of getting cancer.”

Levels of the hormone estrogen in birth control pills have also decreased substantially over the years, the authors said. Pills in the 1960s typically contained more than double the amount of estrogen than pills in the 1980s did.

Even so, the reduction in uterine cancer risk was at least as large for women who used birth control pills in the 1980s as for those who used them in the 1960s, the research showed.

This suggests that estrogen amounts in lower-dose pills are still sufficient to reduce the risk of uterine cancers, Beral’s team said.

They also found that a woman’s reproductive history, amount of body fat, alcohol and tobacco use, or ethnicity had little effect on the amount of protection birth control pills provide against uterine cancer.

One expert in the United States said the findings should come as good news for women.

“One of the most impressive aspects of the studies showed that the reduction in risk persists long after the patient ceases use of the pill, even up to 30 years later,” said Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research U.K.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about uterine cancer.


Jessica Biel's 'Funny or Die' Series: The Sex Ed We Wish We Had

FYI: your copper IUD is not attracting lightning strikes, “guzzling” birth control pills does not increase effectiveness, and no one (that we know of) has coughed up a condom from vaginal sex. These are only a few of the funny myths busted in a vaginal health series featuring Jessica Biel, Whitney Cummings, and Joy Bryant on Funny or Die.

Aside from being hilarious, the videos are actually the brainchild of Biel and the non-profit WomenCare Global. The goal: creating a healthy dialogue about women’s bodies and the importance of reproductive health education.

“We don’t want women’s reproductive health issues to be hidden under stigma and taboos anymore,” Biel, 33, said in a recent Good Morning America interview, alongside WomenCare Global CEO Saundra Pelletier. “Can we please laugh about all this crazy stuff that happens to [our bodies]?”

RELATED: Top 10 Myths About Safe Sex and Sexual Health

The trio have girl talk in the kitchen to bust common (and ridiculous) myths about contraception, including condoms, oral contraceptives, and intrauterine devices.

“The baggy condom is not a good look,” Cummings cracks in the first video from the series.

And when it comes to the IUD, there are some hard-hitting logistical questions these ladies need answers to.

“I have no idea about lightning striking metal inside the body,” Biel wonders in the most recent clip about having a metal device in her uterus. “I’d have a super vagina?” (The spot then states that IUDs are actually mostly plastic, which is not a conductor of electricity. Phew.)

“Superwoman’s IUD got struck by lightning,” Cummings chimes in. “That’s how she learned to fly.”

Watch the rest below: 

RELATED: 16 Worst Birth Control Mistakes

Teens and Sex: Do virginity pledges work?

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By Theresa TamkinsMONDAY, Dec. 29, 2008 (Health.com) — As many as one in eight teens in the United States takes a virginity pledge at some point, vowing to wait until they’re married before having sex. But do such pledges work? Are pledge takers more likely than other teens to delay sexual activity?

A new study suggests that the answer is no. While teens who take virginity pledges do delay sexual activity until an average age of 21 (compared to about age 17 for the average American teen), the reason for the delay is more likely due to pledge takers’ religious background and conservative views—not the pledge itself.

According to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, pledge takers are as likely to have sex before marriage as other teens who are also religious, but don’t take the pledge. However, pledge takers are less likely than other religious or conservative teens to use condoms or birth control when they do start having sex.

In the new study, Janet Rosenbaum, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md., analyzed the large chunk of data used in most of the studies that have looked at virginity pledges: the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. In this survey, middle and high school students were asked about their sexual behaviors and opinions starting in 1995-96.

In the analysis, Rosenbaum compared 289 young adults who took virginity pledges in their teens with 645 young people who did not take such a pledge. The researcher was careful to only compare teens who had similar views on religion, birth control and sex in general, regardless of whether or not they took a pledge.

Five years after the initial survey the study subjects were aged 20 to 23. Eighty-two percent of pledge takers denied (or forgot) they had ever taken such a vow. Overall pledge takers were no different from non-pledge takers in terms of their premarital sex, anal and oral sexual practices, and their probability of having a sexually transmitted disease.

Both groups lost their virginity at an average age of 21, had about three lifetime partners, and had similar rates of STDs. “And the majority were having premarital sex, over 50%,” says Rosenbaum. Overall, roughly 75% of pledgers and non-pledgers were sexually active, and about one in five was married.

Unmarried pledgers, however, were less likely than non-pledgers to use birth control (64% of pledge takers and 70% of non-pledge takers said they used it most of the time) or condoms (42% of pledge takers and 54% of non-pledge takers said they used them most of the time).

“There’s been some speculation about whether teenagers were substituting oral or anal sex for vaginal sex and I found that wasn’t so,” says Rosenbaum, “but I did uphold a previous finding that they are less likely to use birth control and drastically less likely in fact to use condoms–it’s a ten percentage point difference.”

Rosenbaum is concerned that abstinence-only sex education programs that promote virginity pledges may also promote a negative view of condoms and birth control. The result may be teens and young adults who are less likely than their peers to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies.

Federal funds for abstinence only education programs have increased from $73 million in 2001 to $204 million in 2008. About 25 states apply for such funds each year to educate teens, says Rosenbaum. Sometimes programs are measured by how many teens take virginity pledges, not whether the teens stick to them, avoid sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancies, says Rosenbaum.

“Studies find that kids in abstinence-only programs have negative, biased views about whether condoms work,” she says. Since such programs promote abstinence only they tend to give only the disadvantages of birth control, she says. Teens learn condoms don’t protect you completely from human papillomavirus (HPV) and herpes, which is true, but they may not realize that they protect against all the “fluid-based STDs,” she says. “People end up thinking you may as well not bother using birth control or condoms.”

Virginity pledges, along with a 6-hour curriculum, were first introduced in 1993 by an evangelical Christian group, and a 1995 survey suggested that 13% of teens had taken such a pledge (current survey data are lacking, says Rosenbaum.)

“Virginity pledgers are very different than most US teens–they are obviously more conservative, they have more negative views about sexuality and birth control and so even if they didn’t take a pledge these would be teenagers who would be very likely to abstain anyhow,” says Rosenbaum. About 40% of the study subjects were born again Christians, she notes.

The new study does not suggest that virginity pledges are harmful, says Andrew Goldstein, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, because they were not associated with an increase in STDs or unplanned pregnancies. However, they do seem to be useless, says Dr. Goldstein, who was not involved in the study.

Promoting the pledges gives a “false sense of security and energy could be better spent in education,” he says. “It is time to stop spending money on these useless programs and funnel it into safer-sex counseling.”

When it comes to advice for the parents of teens, Rosenbaum notes that just about every organization, from Focus on the Family to Planned Parenthood, offers a similar message.

“Parents should talk to their kids about their sex. It should not be single conversation, it should be a continued conversation at the moments that are teachable moments,” she says. “Parents tend to hope that schools will take care of it–they can’t, obviously.”


Related Links:

6 Things Your Teen Needs to Know About Sex

Sex and Teens: Test Your Knowledge

Who’s Most at Risk for STDs?

What Should I Do if the Condom Breaks?


Women Under 18 May Soon Have Access to Morning

TUESDAY, March 24, 2009 (Health.com) – A US court ruling this week may ease restrictions on the over-the-counter sale of morning-after pills, sold as Plan B, to women under 18.

A federal judge, U.S. District Judge Edward Korma, told the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make the product available to 17-year-olds within 30 days, according to The Washington Post, and to reconsider whether it should be available without any age restriction at all.

Plan B, which contains the same synthetic hormones found in birth control pills but in a higher dose, can prevent pregnancy from occurring if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. It may work up to five days after sex, but it works best when taken within 24 hours.

Plan B was FDA-approved in 2006 to be sold without a prescription as emergency contraception. It’s available at most pharmacies, but for the moment, only to women over the age of 18. “Just ask the pharmacist and he’ll give it to you,” says Hilda Hutcherson, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center.

Since Plan B is more effective the sooner you take it, some health-care providers recommend having it on hand “just in case.”

It should not be used as primary birth control, however. “Don’t think, ‘I’m only having sex four times a month, so I’ll just take the morning-after pill every time,'” says Dr. Hutcherson. It’s more expensive than other methods, may cause nausea, and will throw your cycles off. “Your body won’t know what’s going on,” says Dr. Hutcherson.

Plan B is not the same as mifepristone, the abortion pill formerly known as RU-486. Mifepristone is available only with a prescription from your doctor; if taken, it can terminate an early pregnancy. If you take Plan B, on the other hand, and you’re pregnant already, says Dr. Hutcherson, “You’re gonna stay pregnant. Not gonna help you.”


Related Links:How to Use Condoms Correctly10 Questions to Ask a New Partner Before Having SexWhat Should I Do if the Condom Breaks?How to Protect Yourself When Your Partner May Be Cheating

The Gooey Future of Birth Control, Why Hardship Can Strengthen Marriage, and How to Save for Back to School

We’ve got back to school on the brain here at Health.com, and the moms on staff were happy to stumble across these tips for packing eco-friendly lunches. OK, even those of us without kids (but with a limited food budget and plenty of leftovers) will probably make use of these suggestions! [Green Daily]

Speaking of going back to school—and limited budgets—Microsoft is paying up to 50% cash back to people who use their new search engine, Bing, to shop for school supplies. Stock up and save on books, clothes, soccer cleats, lunch totes, healthy snacks, and more. [All You]

We recently highlighted some amazing moments in birth-control history, as well as what’s in the pipeline for future contraceptive methods. But we didn’t see this one coming: An innovative new gel may one day serve as a rub-on female condom that protects against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. [MedGadget]

Every engaged couple hopes for a fairytale wedding and a blissful honeymoon—but when things start to go wrong, it’s often seen as a bad omen. As it turns out, rain (or even more serious derailments) on your wedding day can actually be a good start to a happily-ever-after life together. [Time]

Like all Americans, we’re still not 100% sure on the details of the government’s proposed health-care reform—but we’re doing everything we can to learn as much as possible. That’s why we’re thankful for a new series of columns by Fortune editor Shawn Tully. The first post, “Designing the Ideal Health Care System,” may be a bit long, but it’s packed with smart insight and good ideas. [CNN Money]


Previous news from Around the Web:Mosquitoes Used as Vaccination Needles, Whether Bras Really Cause Cancer, and Why Multitasking Is Bad for Your BrainHow Holograms Battle Ovarian Cancer, Soccer’s Sudden Death Syndrome, and Why Race Training Can Make You FatThe Truth About Low-Fat Foods, an Online Cure for Insomnia, and Why Flip-Flops Could Kill You

Yoga to Boost Your Libido, the Bachelorette's Permanent Birth Control, and Why Milk Doesn't Do a Body Good

At the end of a long workday or after a fight with a friend, we know all too well how easy it is to find comfort at the bottom of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. But stuffing your face when you’re stressed or sad won’t change anything except your waistline. Instead, try these three steps to take control of your emotional eating. [FNC iMag]

Despite the various promotional campaigns touting the health benefits of cow juice (Got Milk?), milk isn’t actually doing an adult body any good. Scientists say lactose intolerance isn’t so much a disease as it is the norm, since a whopping 60% of adults can’t digest milk. [USA Today]

From ancient Egyptian experiments with crocodile poop to the less-than-effective sponge, there have been some curious moments in birth control history. Here, the Bachelorette’s Trista Sutter talks about her decision to use Essure, a trendy new form of permanent birth control. [MomLogic]

When it comes to trendy weight-loss gimmicks, we thought we’d heard it all. But do the makers of Burner Balm really expect us to believe their lip gloss will make us thin? [That’s Fit]

There could be lots of reasons why you’re not getting any. The financial crisis alone has caused one-third of you to turn down sex on at least one occasion. But don’t let your lagging libido be the culprit. Instead, try this yoga move to boost your sex drive. [Vitamin G]


Previous news from Around the Web:Red Is For Winners, Troubling Breast Cancer Drug News, and What Britney Spears Can Teach Us About Alzheimer’sWomen Care More About Water Than Sex, Why College Dorms Trigger Asthma, and America’s Worst Hygiene CrimesWhen Healthy Eating Becomes a Disorder, Our 26th Food You Should Never Eat, and Why Some Men Think Chlamydia Is Manly

Women Who Really Enjoy Breast

As if yesterday’s news of a Swedish man trying to lactate wasn’t quite strange enough, consider this: Some women find breast-feeding so pleasurable that they may actually orgasm while feeding their newborns. [Momlogic]

Swine flu has the worrisome of the world up in arms. Companies are using the hype to boost sales of face masks and antibacterial soaps. But the makers of seemingly unrelated products—from computer virus protection to T-shirts—are cashing in on the health crisis too. [Forbes]

If signing up your kid for a 10k seems a little too intense, try doing yoga together instead. These five simple moves are a great family-friendly home workout. [All You]

Fresh greens aren’t just a summer farmers’-market delicacy. Plant your own cool-season garden, and you can have fresh salad ingredients at your fingertips all winter long. [Sunset]

When it comes to birth control, we like to stick to the facts—not so much for the Brits. England, which has the highest unintended pregnancy rate in Europe, has some bizarre birth control myths, including some involving Saran wrap, chicken skin, and alcohol made from a beaver’s testicles! [BBC]


Previous news from Around the Web:Swedish Man Tries to Lactate, Foods People Die For, and Why Kids’ Sports Are Good for ParentsMan Finds Frog in Soda Can, Why Flowers Are Good For You, and Women Who Are Allergic to SexThe Lung Cancer Breathalyzer, How Slugs Cure Insomnia, and the PMS Bill of Rights

The Pill Turns 50

FRIDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) — Untold millions of women have taken it at some point in their lives, Loretta Lynn wrote a song about it, people have been arrested for it and it’s still one of the most common prescription drugs in the world.

And it’s simply known as “the Pill.”

On May 9, 1960, an advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended approval of the birth control pill. The agency did just that 45 days later.

“Since the Pill was approved by the FDA, it has radically changed women’s access to education, to employment and to having the size of family that they want,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which led the effort to get the Pill approved. “It completely changed women’s ability to control their own destiny.”

Dr. John Preston Parry, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, added: “No medication has come close to the birth control pill in terms of social, political and medical impact. In terms of career opportunities [for women], it’s had more of an impact than anything else. The proportion of women pursuing medical careers has gone from about 10 percent to close to 50 percent.”

But the Pill was never intended to lead women into the workforce or reduce the size of the average family. Nor did the first drug for “prevention” — rather than treatment — immediately alter the landscape.

Planned Parenthood founder and reproductive rights pioneer Margaret Sanger championed the Pill’s beginning, Richards related. But, in 1961, barely a year after the Pill had been approved, the head of Planned Parenthood in Connecticut was arrested for providing it to women. That case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, in 1965, ruled that there was a constitutional right for married women to use birth control pills.

It wasn’t until 1972 that single women were granted the right to take the Pill.

Still, the Pill wasn’t — and hasn’t — been embraced by all. Many groups, including religious conservatives, view oral contraceptives as anti-life. There have been numerous reports of pharmacists across the country refusing to fill prescriptions for birth control pills and morning-after pills because the medications violate their moral or religious beliefs.

“Our group was founded with the idea of returning pharmacy to a healing-only profession. What’s been going on is the use of medication to stop human life. That violates the ideal of the Hippocratic oath that medical practitioners should do no harm,” Karen L. Brauer, president of Pharmacists for Life, told the Washington Post in a 2005 interview. Brauer was fired from a Kmart pharmacy in Ohio for refusing to fill birth control prescriptions.

And while reams have been written about the Pill and how it helped to usher in the looser sexual mores of the 1960s, Alex Sanger, grandson of Margaret Sanger and chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council in New York City, doesn’t believe that the Pill spawned the sexual revolution. Or at least not the first one, which he believes occurred in the 1940s and ’50s, courtesy of his grandmother and the emergence of the car as a middle-class commodity.

But, he added, the Pill “contributed, no question about it, to a decline in the birth rate, the end of the baby boom years, women entering the workplace and more women getting control over their fertility.”

Since 1960, the size of the American family has almost halved, women have entered the workforce in record numbers and more are getting advanced degrees. The U.S. Census Bureau reported last month that nearly six out of 10 adults holding advanced degrees between the ages of 25 and 29 are women.

The Pill also reversed gender roles in some fundamental ways, many contend.

“First, it let men off the hook,” Sanger said. “The condom went from the number-one method of birth control in 1960 to an also-ran five years later. There’s one school of thought that says men used this as an excuse to avoid responsibility if there was an unintended pregnancy. . . Therefore, there was a rise in births to single mothers and the decline of marriage.”

The early side effects of the Pill, which included stroke, blood pressure problems, weight gain and acne, may have inadvertently unleashed feminism, Sanger added.

“The side effects of the first-generation Pill — that did more for creating modern feminism than the Pill itself,” he said. “Women who were experiencing these serious side effects went public and dared to speak out. Women in the ’60s were nascent feminists saying, ‘Enough. We’re not going to be treated as guinea pigs and have doctors and scientists telling us this is all in our imaginations.’ This was really a consciousness-raising moment. Women spoke out, admitted they were on the Pill and admitted they were having sex. For women to do, that was quite stunning.”

As new generations of the Pill have been unveiled, the early panic over its health risks have subsided to a large degree. The Pill is now known to have some health benefits, including reducing the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer. And a large study released in March found that women who took oral contraceptives at some point in their lives have a lower risk of death than women who never tried the Pill.

Still, the modern Pill can come with unwanted side effects, such as nausea, weight gain or weight loss, and painful or missed periods. Less common symptoms can include severe headache, severe chest pain, coughing up blood, partial or complete loss of vision, and depression, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Oral contraceptives can also raise the risk of stroke for some women, especially those older than 35 who smoke, as well as women with high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, the NIH reports.

Some doctors regard the Pill as more natural than menstruation.

“Physicians have come to understand that, in many respects, suppressing the ovarian cycle with birth control pills is more natural than having 500 ovulations in a lifetime,” said Dr. Steven Goldstein, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.

That’s because nature intended women to have fewer cycles by virtue of being pregnant much of the time, he said.

“People worry it’s not natural,” Goldstein said. “You stop being natural when you don’t have eight kids and nurse them all for 12 to 15 months. There’s no bottle or formula in nature.”

Advocates of the Pill point to unfinished business.

It’s only been within the past decade that insurance companies have begun to cover the cost of the Pill. Even then, many women can’t afford it, contributing to the fact that the United States has the highest rate of unintended and teen pregnancies among Western industrialized nations, Richards said.

“It [the Pill] has made an enormous difference, but there’s still a lot to do,” she said.

More information

For more on birth control methods, visit the U.S. National Women’s Health Information Center.

By Amanda GardnerHealthDay Reporter

SOURCES: Cecile Richards, president, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, New York City; Alexander Sanger, chair, International Planned Parenthood Council, New York City; John Preston Parry, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison; Steven Goldstein, M.D., professor, obstetrics and gynecology, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City

Last Updated: May 07, 2010

Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

100 Recipes for Under $1, Birth Control for Men, and 10 Ways to Snack in the Summer

Just because it’s bathing suit season doesn’t mean you can’t snack. Check out these 10 healthy summer snacks. Cue drooling. [DailySpark]

A group of 750-million-year-old fossils pried from ancient formations in Canada show the origins of biomineralization, the process that makes bones and teeth, and once upon a time, shaped the earth! [Wired Science]

If you love downward dog and you can’t stay away from a spin bike, read about this new yoga-spinning hybrid class that’s making its way through LA and NYC. [FitSugar]

Researchers get closer and closer to creating a new birth control pill—for men. The drug, which has yet to be tested on humans, interferes with the receptors used to metabolize vitamin A, which causes temporary (read: reversible!) infertility. [TIME Healthland]

Each of these 100 recipes costs less than $1 to prepare, per serving. We’ll repeat that now, in case (like us) you can’t believe your eyes—100 recipes, less than $1! [AllYou]

Be on the defense for this growing culprit of liver disease: fat. About one-third of the U.S. population has nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,  and a small part of that group will develop cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease. [CNN]

How warm is too warm before a workout? Or should we stay cold? A new study shows that warmed-up muscles may not perform better or be any more resistant to injury than colder ones. [New York Times Well]

6 Strategies to Avoid Stress, Healthy Meal Swap Ideas, and 100

Don’t worry about it—literally! Six strategies to calm common concerns. [RealSimple]

The contraception conversation gains some focus: Male birth control could go from debate topic to reality in about 10 years. [TIME Healthland]

Never grocery shop on an empty stomach! Or with hungry children. These shopping tips can help you avoid cabinets full of cookies and chips. [DailySpark]

Try these simple swaps for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to make your meals healthier. [AllYou]

Falling into an afternoon slump is easy, but so are these quick things you can do in advance to encourage an after-work gym session. [FitSugar]

Are the risks to casual sex just emotional, or can they be health related, too? [CNN]

You don’t have to skip burgers—just be careful not to pile on too much extra fat, or tons of calories. These tasty topping combinations will cost you only 100 calories. [CookingLight]