A recent study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology[1] (BJCP) aimed to prove that "oral contraceptive use influences the risks for certain cancers." Results concluded that long-term use may increase the risk of gliomas, tumors that occur in the brain and spinal cord. This comes as a surprise to many, since estrogen and progestin were originally believed to protect against gliomas.[2]

Andersen and colleagues assessed over 2,000 women ages 15 to 49 diagnosed with gliomas based on their exposure to estrogen-progestagen and progestegan-only contraceptives. The study reveals that women increase their risk of gliomal brain cancer by 50% if they ever use hormonal birth control, and by 90% if they use it long-term (5 years or more).[3]

Named for their origin, gliomas effect the glial cells which surround and support neurons in the brain. Gliomas accounts for only 10% of all cancers; however, they also account for 80% of all malignant brain tumors[4] and have a mere 15% survival rate.[5]

The bottom line is that use of synthetic hormonal agents like the birth control pill can have lasting effects on a woman's body. Make sure that you have all of the facts you need about pregnancy prevention and your future health before you swallow The Pill.

[1] Andersen L, Friis S, Hallas J, Ravn P, Kristensen BW, Gaist D (2014). Hormonal contraceptive use and risk of glioma among younger women a nationwide case-control study. Br J Clin Pharmacol. DOI: 10.1111/bcp.12535 [Epub ahead of print].

[2] Haghighat N, Oblinger MM, McCandless DW (2004). Cytoprotective effect of estrogen on ammonium chloride-treated C6-glioma cells. Neurochem Res. 29(7): 1359-64.

[3] Andersen L, Friis S, Hallas J, Ravn P, Kristensen BW, Gaist D (2014). Hormonal contraceptive use and risk of glioma among younger women a nationwide case-control study. Br J Clin Pharmacol. DOI: 10.1111/bcp.12535 [Epub ahead of print].

[4] Vredenburgh JJ, Desjardins A, Reardon DA, Friedman HS (2009). Experience with irinotecan for the treatment of malignant glioma. Neuro-Oncology. 11(1): 80-91.

[5] Ho VK, Reijneveld JC, Enting RH, Bienfait HP, Robe P, Baumert BG, Visser O; Dutch Society for Neuro-Oncology (LWNO) (2014). Changing incidence and improved survival of gliomas. Eur J Cancer. 50(13):2309-18.