A recent article in Longevity, asks, “Breast Cancer: Are The Risks Linked To Birth Control Devices?” While Longevity article describes birth control as a blessing of modern medicine for women today, shortly after it states a sobering fact: “However, this blessing may increase the risk of breast cancer.”
This blessing can easily be reframed as a curse, and the article dives into a study that reveals devastating facts. A study conducted in Finland and published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in August 2014 found links between the use of progestogen containing IUDs and an increased risk of breast cancer. The study focused on data from 93,843 Finnish women between the ages of 30-49, who had used a progestogen-releasing IUD. The resulting database was then compared to the Finnish Cancer Registry and the results were startling.
“The risk of ductal carcinomas (the most common form of breast cancer which accounts for approximately 80% of all breast cancers as well as lobular carcinomas (which constitutes approximately 10% of all breast cancers) increased. The study states, ‘the finding of an increased standardized incidence ration for breast cancer after 5 or more years of follow-up may reflect causality between extended progestin exposure and cancer risk, but the results should be interpreted with caution in light of the limitations of the study.’”
The article does its duty in informing the audience of the facts of the study and lays out the potential risks in clear and frank language. However, one can detect the author’s tentativeness to completely condemn IUDs and other forms of hormonal birth control.
The Longevity author writes: “Any form of medical intervention carries risks and benefits which one needs to consider holistically. Does one trade-off of a small increase in breast cancer risk versus the lifestyle benefits these devices offer? This is an informed decision each woman should make for themselves in consultation with their doctor, preferably a gynecologist.”
Proper informed consent between doctor and patient is essential to patients feeling prepared for whatever risks may come from the drugs they decide to take. Unfortunately, too often women who suffer side effects say they didn’t hear these mentioned by their doctor.
The risk of breast cancer hardly seems small, nor do the countless other potential birth control side effects—from mood shifts and lower libido to larger issues like blood clots and uterine scarring. True informed consent should be to inform women as well of safer options with comparable effectiveness rates of pregnancy prevention, such as Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FABM). FABM, or modern evidence-based methods of natural family planning, not only cause no side effects, they offer a woman the option to understand what is happening in her unique body.
Managing one’s fertility health without the fear of potentially life-threatening cancers—that certainly helps with longevity. It’s also a blessing FABM-using women can’t stop telling us about.