In general, women should be more aware of the risks that come with taking oral contraceptives, rather than just blindly popping them, in order to make an educated decision.
Previous studies have linked birth control to certain forms of cancer and blood clots, and while they might be hard to decipher, they shouldn't be ignored. Now, another study has surfaced about the pill's safety.
According to research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, birth control pills containing estrogen and progestin may lead to a higher incidence of a rare brain tumor called glioma.
For the study, researchers looked at data for 317 women between the ages of 15 and 49 with a glioma and 2,126 without from Denmark's national health registries and prescription databases. They focused on what types of contraceptives they were on and how long they'd been taking them.
They found that women who used progestogen-only contraceptives with at any time had a 40% higher risk for developing a glioma than those who had never taken them. But long-term users (five or more years), had almost double the risk.
Research team leader Dr. David Gaist found the results very surprising, according to the press release, because past research has shown that hormones like estrogen and progestin may actually help prevent glioma. However, he believes that the contradiction may have to do with the fact that previous research focused on post-menopausal women, while this study analyzed a relatively young group of women.
However, Dr. Gaist doesn't believe that the findings are reason enough to stop taking birth control since brain tumors are still very rare. Plus, the study doesn't necessarily suggest a causal link and could be overlooking other potential risk factors, such as obesity. In other words, the benefits of birth control still outweigh its health risks.
That being said, this study is still significant, as it may prompt further research on the relationship between female hormonal agents. Perhaps most importantly, though, it may cause women to think more thoroughly about the type of birth control they choose.