Study Links Birth Control Pills and Brain Cancer…But Don’t Freak Out Yet

Birth control pills have myraid side effects.

A recent study has linked birth control pills and brain cancer. Obviously, this study is not going to damn birth control use. But it’s something all women should know about.

The study was released in late January 2015 in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. The study found that women “who take the pill were twice as likely to develop a rare type of brain cancer called glioma.”

Young women between the ages of 15 and 49 were the subjects of the study. The following is the meaty part of the story:

“They then looked into how many of these women had an Rx for birth control pills, recording the type they took (either the estrogen-progestin ‘combo pill’ or the progestin-only ‘minipill’) and for how long. Finally, they compared them to a control group of glioma-free women in the same age range.

The results showed a 50 percent higher risk of glioma in women who took any pill type for any length of time. Scarily, the risk doubled among women who took progestin-only pills for at least five years.”

While on the surface that doesn’t sound too awesome, it shouldn’t concern women quite yet. More than a few doctors, including Alyssa Dweck, M.D., ob-gyn in Westchester, New York, are saying the study does show correlation, but it doesn’t show causation.

According to Women’s Health Magazine, the following are some of the things to keep in mind about the study’s results:

– “The rates may have been higher in Pill takers because women on oral contraceptives might be more likely to visit their doctor.”

– BMI may have played a role: Doctors often prescribe overweight women progestin-only pills, as they have fewer side effects, “such as blood clots.”

– Glioma is still extremely rare: around five in 100,000 women get it. If the rate is doubled, that means only 10 in 100,000 women will get it.

What do you think about this study? Do the results make you want to toss your pills?

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Image: Nate Grigg

Abbie Stutzer

Writer, editor, and owner of Ginchy!, a freelance writing and editing company, and home funeral hub. Adores smart sex ed, sustainable ag, spooky history, women's health, feminism, horror, wine, and sci-fi.