Friday, January 25, 2008

A Not-So-Bitter Pill

When I first went on the birth control pill in the early 1980s, its reputation was still clouded by the problems associated with the original, high-dosage pills of the 1960s. I worried about blood clots (my family has a history). I'm sure I wasn't the only person to suspect that any pill that allowed me so much fun with so little worry would eventually cause cancer.

Well, there's good news today. It turns out that taking the pill actually protects against ovarian cancer, and to quite a dramatic degree. The AP reports on a study published today in the Lancet that found a 20 percent decrease in risk for every five years a woman took the pill. This protective effect gradually declines over time once a woman stopped taking it. But even so, this is a massive effect, which could prevent as many as 30,000 new diagnoses of ovarian cancer each year, and which for most women vastly outweighs the pill's small increased risk of breast cancer. The Lancet is calling for the pill to be sold over the counter in Great Britain.

Whoever said that the wages of sin are death? :-)

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