November 15, 2011
Contraceptive Pill Possibly Linked To Prostate Cancer
Research published in the online journal, BMJ Open, suggests that use of the contraceptive pill is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer, which is the most common cancer type among males in the developed world, BBC reports.
Canadian investigators report that they may have found a possible link between use of the contraceptive pill and prostate cancer rates. However experts are taking pains to point out this is not proof that one causes the other and it could possibly be an aberration in the data.
The scientists have reason to believe estrogen by-products excreted in the urine of pill-users may have contaminated the food chain and drinking water with the hormone which is known to feed the growth of certain cancers. A link was sought by sifting through data from 2007 for individual nations and continents worldwide to see if there was any link.
Calculations showed that use of intrauterine devices, condoms, or other vaginal barriers had no association with the increased risk of prostate cancer.
Analysis showed that use of the contraceptive pill in the population as a whole was significantly associated with both the number of new cases of, and deaths from, prostate cancer in individual countries.
The authors emphasize that this research is entirely speculative and designed to promote discussion of the issues. As such, their analysis does not confirm cause and effect, and therefore definitive conclusions cannot be drawn, as yet.
Contamination of the food chain with hormones originating from the pill are the likely culprit, suggests Drs. David Margel and Neil Fleshner, from Toronto University. They stress that their work merely suggests a link and is not proof.
“It must be considered hypothesis generating and thought-provoking,” they explain in their BMJ Open report. More investigations are needed and Margel and Fleshner recommend close monitoring of environmental levels of oral contraceptive by-products or endocrine disruptive compounds (EDCs).
Dr. Kate Holmes, of The Prostate Cancer Charity, agreed that more research was warranted. “While this study raises some interesting questions about the presence of EDCs in the environment, it does not contribute to our overall understanding of the development of prostate cancer,” she told BBC.
The EDC´s don´t break down easily, and can be passed into the urine and show up in the drinking water supply or the food chain, exposing the general population, say the authors.
"Temporal increases in the incidence of certain cancers (breast, endometrial, thyroid, testis and prostate) in hormonally sensitive tissues in many parts of the industrialized world are often cited as evidence that widespread exposure of the general population to EDCs has had adverse impacts on human health," the authors write.
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