Birth Control, health care, pro-choice, reproductive rights, women's health

Birth Control Pills Cause Prostate Cancer… Except Not Really

                So some news outlets are reporting on a new study coming out of Canada that shows in countries with higher rates of birth control pill use there is also a higher rate of prostate cancer. The study is being reported as though there is a causal link between the two. Though the study authors are quoted in a Fox News article saying: “Several studies now have found an association between estrogen exposure and prostate cancer… We think this is environmental —[estrogen] goes into the water, into our food chain… We can’t establish a cause-and-effect relationship. We definitely don’t think the take-home message is women should stop taking the pill.” News organizations reporting on this study are by and large ignoring this fact and continue to claim that birth control pills may be causing prostate cancer by getting into the water supply through the urine of women taking the pill.

                Okay, to start lets acknowledge some of the facts. First, there are many studies showing that there is an increased amount of estrogen hormones in water systems throughout the world. There are also studies showing that this estrogen is NOT solely or even predominantly coming from the estrogen types found in human birth control pills. In fact, the estrogen from birth control pills in water systems is a negligible amount. The estrogen in the water systems is actually coming from industrial sources. So although there may in fact be an as yet unproven causal link between estrogen in the water systems and higher rates of prostate cancer, the estrogen causing it is not from birth control pills.

                Second, as Erin Ryan points out a Jezebel, “countries with high rates of oral contraceptive use have higher life expectancy and therefore more likelihood that men would not be killed by something besides prostate cancer first.” Countries with higher rates of birth control pill use tend to also have better health care systems and fewer dangerous living situations that cause early deaths. Prostate cancer is almost always found in men over 60 and the likelihood of getting goes up farther after 70. It makes sense even without a link to estrogen that there would be higher instances of prostate cancer in countries with higher rates of birth control pill use because people are living longer in these countries.

                So once again, conservatives are using a very loose concurrence to try and prove that birth control pills are evil and should be done away with. Except, as usual, they are totally misconstruing the evidence and providing false information. What they should be focusing on is why the industrial hormones are getting into the water systems in the first place and how the water can be more effectively and efficiently purified to ensure the hormones aren’t getting into the drinking water.


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