Do oral contraceptives increase the risk of brain cancer in women between the ages of 15 to 49? It’s been all over news with headlines reported by the media, which proclaim, “ hormonal contraceptives are linked to brain cancer”. Although there have been a number of studies examining the potential link between reproductive factors, and an increase in certain types of brain cancer in women, thus far they have been inconclusive. However, the latest study, a Danish registry of women that examined use of oral contraceptives and their potential to increase the risk of brain cancer, became the centerpiece for media hype.
We recommend women examine the facts to place all such studies into the proper perspective by understanding the information presented and what it means to YOU.
Here are the facts translated for convenience:
- What was the form of study?
Answer: Data was drawn from Denmark’s national and administrative health registries. “A registry is a collection of information about individuals, usually focused around a specific diagnosis or condition. Registries collect information about people who have a specific disease or condition, while others seek participants of varying health status who may be willing to participate in research about a particular disease. Individuals provide information about themselves to these registries on a voluntary basis. Registries can be sponsored by a government agency, nonprofit organization, health care facility, or private company.” (Source: National Institutes of Health, 2014)
- Who were the individuals studied?
Answer: Women in Denmark between the ages of 15 and 49 who had a first time diagnosis of glioma
“Glioma is a common type of primary brain tumor, accounting for about 33% of these tumors. Gliomas originate in the glial cells in the brain. Glial cells are the tissue that surrounds and supports neurons in the brain.
Gliomas are called intrinsic brain tumors because they reside within the substance of the brain and often intermix with normal brain tissue.
There are different grades of gliomas; however, they are most often referred to as “low-grade” or “high-grade” gliomas. The low or high-grade designation reflects the growth potential and aggressiveness of the tumor.
There is no obvious cause of glioma. This type of brain tumor affects all ages, but is more common in adults. Gliomas are slightly more common in men than in women and more common in Caucasian people than in African-American people.” (Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine, Department of Neurology and Neuroscience)
- What was the duration of this study?
Answer: The data reviewed was for the period from 2000 to 2009.
- What were the results?
Answer: The examination of data uncovered 317 cases of glioma and aged-matched them with women who did not have glioma.
- What can be concluded from the examination of this data?
Here is what one of the principal investigators concluded:
“While we found a statistically significant association between hormonal contraceptive use and glioma risk, a risk-benefit evaluation would still favor the use of hormonal contraceptives in eligible users,” says Dr. Gaist, who points out that it is important to carry on evaluating long-term contraceptive use in order to help women choose the best contraception for them.”
For more information on contraceptive use, consult a qualified physician in your area. And, please weigh all the facts.