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The "Pill's" dangers: should women be kept ignorant?

The "Pill's" Dangers" Should Women Be Kept Ignorant?

By a 6 to 4 vote, an advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including a number of obstetricians and gynecologists, recently voted not to change the current labeling of the birth control pill concerning the relationship between the pill and breast cancer. They argued that if women were informed of this new evidence they might change their contraceptive practices.

But the current doctor and patient labeling on the birth control pill is hopelessly out-of-date and gives the millions of American women who are current, past or future users of the pill a false sense of security with respect to the issue of the relationship between the birth control pill and breast cancer.

Despite a number of early and more recent studies which found no link between use of the pill and breast cancer, six studies in women in the last seven years, four of which were done in the last two years, have shown an association between the use of oral contraceptives and breast cancer in women whose diagnosis of breast cancer was made before the age of 45.

The conclusion which best summarizes the results of all of these findings is of researchers from Boston University, the University of Pennsylvania and Sloan Kettering whose study was limited to breast cancer in women diagnosed before the age of 45. They stated that: "[Our] results suggest that oral contraceptive users, particularly those with very long duration of use, may be at increased risk of breast cancer." They also said that "this study provides new evidence to suggest that the risk of breast cancer is increased among women below the age of 45 years who have used oral contraceptives. The risk appeared to be approximately doubled for use of less than ten years' duration and quadrupled for ten or more years of use."


The current pill labeling, as seen in the 1989 Physicians' Desk Reference, gives different warnings or information for different pills but none of the brands has accurate information concerning the current state of knowledge about the pill and breast cancer. The most inaccurate of the current pill labels is that of Parke Davis, the maker of Loestrin and Norloestrin: "The overwhelming evidence in the literature suggests that use of oral contraceptives is not associated with an increase in the risk of developing breast cancer..."

Despite this clearly incorrect statement about the current state of knowledge regarding the pill and breast cancer, elsewhere in the label there is accurate mention about the good news concerning the pill and other reproductive tract cancers: "Oral contraceptive use may provide some protection against developing two forms of cancer: cancer of the ovaries and cancer of the lining of the uterus."
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Title Annotation:Food and Drug Administration policy on side effects of oral contraceptives
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Mar 22, 1989
Previous Article:Research links pill with breast cancer.
Next Article:"Preventive" surgery against breast cancer.

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