Women who take birth control pills are often warned that it could increase their chances of getting cancer later in life. However, while studies have tried to prove that one way or another, results have always come back inconclusive.
Now we can hopefully put this particular alarmist theory to bed, because a new study shows that taking birth control pills is helping to reduce the risk of various womb-related cancers. But it gets even better than that. According to the study’s research, you don’t even have to remain on the pill for more than a few years to benefit from this lowered risk for decades.
Researchers at Oxford University found that over 200,000 possible cases of womb cancer have been prevented over the last 10 years thanks to birth control pills. Moreover, after looking at 36 other studies, they estimated that 400,000 cases of endometrial cancer have been prevented due to the pill over the past 50 years. That is a huge number, especially considering what a specific type of cancer they were exploring.
Based on their findings, which they recently published in the The Lancet Oncology journal, they concluded that for every five years a woman remains on the pill, she lowers her risk of developing a form of womb cancer by 25 percent. That means if you’ve taken the pill for more than a decade, your chances of being diagnosed with womb cancer fall by 50 percent — from 2.3 out of 100 to 1.3 out of 100.
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Common womb cancers are ovarian and endometrial (the lining of the uterus), and if you’ve taken the pill for longer than a year, you could have successfully lowered your risk of getting either for up to 30 years. It’s amazing to think that something people have been so ready to label a cancer causer actually does the opposite. Professor Valerie Beral, co-author of the study, told The Guardian, “What it means is that women in their 50s and 60s who took the pill are less likely to get cancer than women who did not, and the longer they have taken it the less likely they are. That is pretty important.” Yeah, I’d say so!
That’s not to say that taking the pill is suddenly free of negatives and risks. The increased risks of weight gain, moodiness, headaches and even blood clots still exist. However, Beral and the rest of the research team hope their findings will help women to weigh the benefits against the risks with more clarity. Really, any medication you take comes with a list of side effects you should certainly consider but not allow to scare you into forgetting why you wanted or needed it in the first place.
Simply put, this is just another reason women have to thank birth control for being awesome, and hopefully it will send the fear mongers back to their dark, cancer-free caves.