The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has been manipulating data and diminishing the connection between oral contraceptives (OC) and breast cancer for decades. Meaning women have been falsely reassured that OCs are completely safe. But in reality, the hidden risks of OCs have probably even contributed to our current breast cancer epidemic.
Thankfully, emerging findings can help women better understand the risks. In fact, a recent study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research shows women who have taken OCs within the past five years have up to a 78 percent increase in risk of developing the deadliest kind of breast cancer.
We’ll get into the details of that major study in a moment. But first, let’s talk a little bit about the history of OCs and the biology of breast cancer…
The history of birth control
I find that most of the talk about birth control centers around exercising one’s “rights.” And there’s very little discussion about how more and more people in society seek to avoid the responsibilities of parenthood.
Of course, at first, birth control pills were heralded as a solution for “overpopulation” in developing countries—a perceived, existential problem thought up during the 1960s and 1970s by some ivory tower academics.
And when I worked in East and Southeast Asia in the 1970s and 1980s, “population control” programs and funding were flooding in. So much so that we learned to link some of our health research programs to this juggernaut in order to get them funded.
Then, suddenly, OC became a “go to” medical intervention throughout the western, “developed” world for birth control. Doctors also began prescribing them to girls and women with other conditions—such as acne or depression. This practice led to a precipitous decline in birth rates—one so critical that western populations have dropped below “replacement” levels. Meanwhile, populations are still booming in non-western countries where people still want children and don’t use OC as commonly.
By the 1980s, concerns began to surface about the health risks to young and childbearing-age women taking “the pill.” And the NCI undertook to study such risks.
I was working at the NCI during that same time, studying the biological and dietary risk factors for breast cancer—and other cancers—with a team of scientists who were trained in medicine as well as medical research.
But the political bosses at the NCI decided that statisticians should perform the huge, nationwide studies on birth control pills. (One even made a career out of her statistical manipulations that falsely reassured women about the safety of OCs.) Yet, these statisticians didn’t have any real background in human biology or medicine…
The biology of breast cancer
At the same time, the modern breast cancer epidemic was raising its head. Of course, biologists knew that declining birth rates (and increased duration of exposure to estrogen) was the real, major risk factor behind the rapid increase in breast cancer rates.
In fact, even in the mid-1980s, we had known for years that the biggest risk factors for breast cancer are:
- Earlier age at menarche
- Later age at menopause
- Having fewer or no pregnancies
- Becoming pregnant later in life
- Not breastfeeding
As you can see, reproductive hormones are at the heart of all of these risk factors. And it makes sense, as biology shows that increased, lifelong exposure to estrogen increases the risk of breast cancer.
In fact, back in the 1970s at the Senate Hearings on birth control pills, Dr. Roy Hertz warned that estrogens, “are to breast cancer what fertilizer is to the wheat crop.” And that analogy really put the problem in terms the midwestern Senator, who led the committee hearings, could relate to. (At the same hearings, Dr. Victor Wynn warned that all human carcinogens are latent. And it can take at least 10 to 20 years to determine the impact.)
Of course, one of the most common and fastest-growing types of breast cancer is typically called estrogen receptor-positive (ER+). It accounts for nearly 80 percent of cases.
Plus, new research shows that estrogen appears to make other tissues, like the brain, more susceptible to breast cancer metastasis. Which may explain why younger women, who have more estrogen, are more likely to suffer brain metastasis if they get breast cancer.
At one point, some scientists thought that switching to progesterone/progestin (the pregnancy hormone) OC would be safer. But about 65 percent of breast cancer tumors contain progesterone receptors and are called progesterone receptor-positive (PR+).
So, clearly, that’s not a real solution. Plus, oncologists end up treating women diagnosed with these two types of breast cancer (ER+ and PR+) with Tamoxifen, a drug that blocks hormone receptors. (Essentially, the drug blocks the hormones that many of these women had been previously taking as OC!)
Despite this, it seems few people at the NCI are willing to confront the hormonal causes of breast cancer—even to this day.
Instead, as with other cancers, the NCI went on a wild goose chase, looking for other risk factors for breast cancer. Such as alcohol, dietary fat, dairy, eggs, meat, and protein.
Of course, none of the research really panned out.
And they still don’t know what to tell worried women other than to get routine mammogram screenings, which can detect smaller and smaller breast growths, but don’t save lives, according to the most recent research.
So, now that you understand a bit more about the history of OC and the biology of breast cancer, let’s move onto the recent study…
Recent study shows OC poses clear, long-lasting threats to women
In the recent study, researchers analyzed results from 54 studies involving nearly 12,000 women as part of the African American Breast Cancer Epidemiology and Risk Consortium.
Researchers found that both recent use and long duration of prior use of hormonal contraceptives were strongly associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
- Women who had used OC within the past five years had a 78 percent increased risk of developing triple-negative (TN) breast cancer, one of the deadliest and most aggressive types of breast cancer.
- Women who took OC within the past five years had a 46 percent higher risk of developing ER+ breast cancer and estrogen negative-receptors (ER-), another type of cancer.
- The ER+ breast cancer risk remained for 15 to 19 years after stopping OC use.
- The ER- breast cancer risk remained beyond 19 years after stopping OC use.
So, at the end of the day, birth control pills raise breast cancer risk. And the risk can continue 20 years (or more) after you stop taking them!
This risk occurs because OCs prevent pregnancies (as intended). But as I explained earlier, pregnancy and fewer lifetime menstrual cycles have a clear anti-cancer effect. Birth control pills also present the double whammy of promoting breast cancer through their hormonal effects. Plus, they increase the risk of other health-related complications, such as blood clots.
Fortunately, there are many natural ways to reduce your breast cancer risk—and your risk of developing other types of cancer. We actually began learning about them in the mid-1990s…
In fact, in 1996, then-Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania nominated me to serve as a U.S. representative to a Canadian Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel on breast cancer. The Canadian panel found that botanicals, vitamins (such as vitamin D), and minerals significantly reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. They also improve survival and quality of life in women with breast cancer.
For all of the safe, science-backed, natural approaches for reducing your risk of breast cancer, and other cancers, refer to my online Authentic Anti-Cancer Protocol. To learn more, or to enroll today, simply click here.
“Birth Control’s Breast Cancer Curveball.” Hormones Matter, 6/10/19. (hormonesmatter.com/birth-controls-breast-cancer-curveball/)
“A case–control analysis of oral contraceptive use and breast cancer subtypes in the African American Breast Cancer Epidemiology and Risk Consortium.” Breast Cancer Research, 2015; 17(22). doi.org/10.1186/s13058-015-0535-x